Being expelled from school can change a student’s life. Many times expulsion is justified and is the only real choice. However, there are other times when expulsion is NOT the only option or cases where the student did not do the “crime” but has no legal help to defend himself in the expulsion hearing.
Under state law parents and their children who can’t afford a lawyer do not get free legal help.
In 2002 when Law in Action started, one of our first goals was to try to help poor parents whose kids were facing expulsion. We started the Student Defense Project by recruiting Greenville lawyers to handle expulsion hearings for free. It did not take long because the Greenville legal community is generous with its time when the cause is just like this one.
Unfortunately the ten lawyers we recruited had no cases to handle since the Greenville County School Board refused to tell parents about the new free lawyer program Law in Action initiated. We were on hold for five years! We had lawyers ready to help parents and kids but the parents did not know the program existed.
Law in Action switched its focus to a publicity campaign. We bought artwork and put it on a highway billboard. We handed out flyers at the school district office on expulsion hearing days. We asked the newspaper to write editorials about what we were doing.
Eventually the school board gave in and a phone number is now included in the expulsion letters the parents receive so they can call for a free lawyer.
After the free lawyer program was finally in place, Law in Action got out of the expulsion business and closed the Student Defense Project. We left our list of volunteer lawyers in the capable hands of Legal Services. The free lawyer program continues in full effect today through the Legal Services office. Their phone # is 679-3232.
Thanks to Law in Action’s efforts, no child facing an expulsion hearing who wants a lawyer by her side will be denied that right.