Youth and special needs advocates joined court representatives, private-practice attorneys and employees of state agencies on April 12 for the Second Annual Juvenile & Child Welfare Conference, which was fittingly held at the United Teen Equality Center in Lowell.
This year’s conference, titled “Where the Classroom Meets the Courtroom: Deconstructing the Cradle to Prison Pipeline,” focused on the intersection of special education and school issues with Juvenile Court practice. Speaking on behalf of the Juvenile Court was Hon. Jay D. Blitzman, who serves as first justice in Middlesex County and as the presiding justice in Lowell. Blitzman highlighted recent court initiatives aimed at ensuring positive outcomes for children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
Keynote speaker Matt Cregor, education project director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, discussed how school issues that arise from inefficient funding and services, as well as improper discipline policies, can fuel the cradle to prison pipeline.
Other topics covered included racial and ethnic disparities, strategies to successfully representing special education clients, and the role of an Individualized Education Program in fostering educational achievement and preventing future court interactions.
UTEC works to nurture ambition among at-risk youth in Lowell and Lawrence, thereby positioning them for social and economic success.