Amanda Allen ’19

Hometown: Louisville, KY
Education: University of Louisville 2016
Affiliations: Co-founder of Boalt on Break, Women of Color Collective, First Generation Professionals, Law Students of African Descent, Boalt Improv Group, Berkeley Journal of African American Law & Policy, Boalt Hall Women’s Association, Mock Trial Team, and Foster Education Project

Boalt on Break is an opportunity for Berkeley Law students to work on issues and with clients that we wouldn’t have access to in the Bay Area. For me, taking students from this elite law school out of our academic, urban bubble and into a high-needs area like Kentucky, where I’m from, was really exciting.

Over spring break, we’ll be doing direct legal services in rural Kentucky, in partnership with local organizations (including the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center and the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund) to help with wills and divorce proceedings. We’ll also be working with coal miners to help them get their black lung benefits from the federal government.Particularly in the rural communities of Kentucky, there are not enough attorneys doing this kind of work. So we’ll be helping the legal aid organizations there provide assistance to an underserved population.

I want to go back to Kentucky eventually. It’s a place that I’m really excited to show my classmates all of the promise that it has and the beauty of the state itself.

Mia Akers ’18

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Education: University of Wisconsin, Madison 2015
Affiliations: EBCLC Education Advocacy Clinic, Foster Education Project, Law Students of African Descent, California Law Review, Board of Advocates Moot Court

I work in the Education Advocacy Clinic (EAC) at EBCLC. We represent students in Alameda County during the expulsion process and also advocate for students who have disabilities and special needs through their individualized education plan (IEP) process.

The work of EAC is so important because, unfortunately, the expulsion process mirrors many aspects of a criminal trial. If the family of the student doesn’t have a lawyer or an advocate to help them through the process—to review paperwork, cross examine witnesses, present evidence, and basically mount a case—the school districts have an unfair advantage. Many students are being wrongfully expelled and are unaware of the rights and procedural safeguards that they entitled to under the California Education Code.

For students with disabilities, if they don’t have an advocate who diligently reviews IEP paperwork and ensures that the district is complying with all the relevant timelines, the rights of the parents, and completing proper assessments—this can really hurt a child’s progress. This is especially troublesome for students who are low income and families of color who are already at the margins of society.

There’s not enough outreach about the legal services that are available to families and students facing expulsion—maybe because people think it’s just a school proceeding and it’s not that important. No, it’s not exactly a criminal conviction, but having a disciplinary expulsion on a student’s record can affect the rest of their lives.

One of the biggest cases I worked on this semester involved a school district pressuring a student and his family to sign a stipulated expulsion, in which the student admits to the wrongdoing and foregoes their right to a hearing. We appealed that case to the Alameda County Board of Education and were able to get his expulsion overturned. So to see the things I’ve learned in the classroom be applied and change the course of a young person’s life is truly powerful.

Berkeley Law’s student body is a community of young professionals whose passions and talents help make this an incredibly vibrant place to learn the practice, purpose, and power of law for the public good. This page is a glimpse at some of our amazing students in their own words and through submissions from members of our community. Nominate someone for a spotlight by emailing rdeletto@law.berkeley.edu.