New York Law School
New York Law School (Jeff Goldberg)

For years, New York Law School professor Richard Marsico has taken his students into public schools in the South Bronx to teach middle school kids about the law. Now he’s decided to take the initiative full-time, in the form of a charter high school.

“I teach a class where we talk about the school-to-prison pipeline,” Marsico said. “I started thinking about setting up a middle school and high school pipeline into law school.”

The New York State Board of Regents approved the project this month. The Charter School for Law and Social Justice represents a partnership between New York Law School and the College of Mount Saint Vincent. There are other justice-themed high schools in New York City and around the country, but Marsico didn’t know of any directly sponsored by a law school.

He hopes to not only expose high school students to the law, but also get them interested in legal careers. As many as 480 public school students will receive a traditional high school education with a strong law and social justice component. Administrators envision offering classes on constitutional law and law-related electives. Upperclassmen will complete a social justice – themed community service project; seniors will serve an internship at a law-related organization or law office.

Organizers are still looking for a location in the Bronx, but said the school could open as soon as next fall.

Students in Marsico’s education law and policy class have already helped to research how to set up a charter school, parsing the applicable laws. He hopes that alumni will serve as mentors and moot court coaches, and will host interns. Law school faculty will work with charter school staff to integrate legal and social justice themes into their classes.

Plans call for the charter to start with an initial cohort of 120 freshmen and add one additional grade during each of the next three years. “I hope it appeals to every student, but certainly students with an interest in the law,” Marsico said.

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