Over a dozen Brooklyn Law School students gave workshops, entitled, “Know Your Rights” to all 450 students at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice (SLJ). The event was part of SLJ’s ongoing partnership with the Law School, which seeks to engage inner city public high school students through legal studies and involvement with the Law School community. The Latin American Law Student Association (LALSA) offered these workshops as part of its Street Law en Español Pro Bono Project, through which students give legal bi-lingual English/Spanish presentations to interested local community groups.
“The partnership with SLJ has been a huge learning experience for both parties involved,” said Judith Soto ’11, Student Bar Association President. “During the Know Your Rights presentation, students were surprisingly well-versed in dealing with police officers and thus, the questions they posed were as challenging as most law school hypos.”
The workshops were designed to offer basic information about students’ rights if they are ever stopped by police officers, to raise students’ awareness of how to constructively assert themselves and ask that their rights be respected. Luis Morales ’11, a former teacher and experienced workshop presenter, suggested these workshops after he and Rosa Cohen-Cruz ’12 met with administrators at SLJ who expressed concern that a number of students had experienced negative interactions with police and other authority figures.
“We see these workshops as part of a larger partnership between LALSA and SLJ,” said Cohen-Cruz, LALSA’s Community Service Chair. “We feel it’s important, as Hispanic students in particular, to give these presentations at a school that is our neighbor, is dedicated to law and justice, and serves mostly students of color.”
“All of the students were engaged by the presentation,” said Merilee Valentino, a 9th grade teacher at SLJ. “This was a great opportunity for them to not only learn about the law and ways to protect their rights, but also to interact with law students.”
In addition to the workshops, LALSA has been involved with SLJ in several other ways. Last semester, LALSA students hosted “A Day in a Life of Law Student” to learn what being a law student was like. LALSA e-board members Judith Soto and Mark Falcon ’13 spoke at an assembly at SLJ for Hispanic Heritage Month. Several other Brooklyn Law School students acted as judges for SLJ’s Christopher Columbus on Trial presentations.
SLJ has had a partnership with the Law School since 2004. In addition to hosting the Know Your Rights Workshops, SLJ students participate with BLS students in Moot Court Week and Race Judicata, both of which take place in April.