ERIC Identifier: ED411178
Publication Date: 1996-11-00
Author: Nessel, Paula A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN., Adjunct ERIC
Clearinghouse for Law-Related Education Bloomington IN.
Law Magnet Programs. ERIC Digest.
Interest in law magnet programs has grown substantially in the 1990s. In
1992, a survey of law magnets identified 69 programs in 15 states. This report
summarizes information provided by 24 predominantly urban law magnet programs
that responded to a 1994 survey. The schools in the sample represent the
spectrum of sizes, organizational structures, and settings.
DEFINITION AND ORIGIN
A law magnet program is a
comprehensive program offering multiple classes concentrating on various aspects
of the law and legal process. The law magnet programs utilize an
interdisciplinary approach to integrate and emphasize legal studies throughout
the curriculum. Programs usually include a sequence of elective and non-elective
classes in grades 9-12. Some elementary and middle schools offer law magnet
programs. While many law magnet programs originated as a means to desegregate
schools, some were created because the community, the school administration, and
local teachers wanted to offer students the unique enrichment that a law-related
education curriculum could provide.
Law magnet programs conform to the stipulation by the United States
Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that magnet schools offer
innovative instructional approaches to attract students with various racial,
ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. Such approaches might include
educational programs and services that comprise the mission of an entire school
while others might serve as supplementary enrichment to a standard curriculum.
The emphasis on attracting students of different backgrounds reflects the racial
integration goal many magnet programs were created to fulfill.
Numerous magnet schools throughout the nation were created in response to a
Kansas City, Missouri, legal case in the late 1970s. At that time, Kalima
Jenkins and several other African-American students successfully sued the school
district for not moving "with all deliberate speed" to dismantle racial
segregation in its system, as required by "Brown v. Board of Education" (1955).
This case is known as "Brown II" because it came to the Supreme Court one year
after the original "Brown" decision in order to resolve the issue of how to
implement the ruling of "Brown I." Kalima Jenkins' case led to federal court
supervision of the district's desegregation plans. Magnet schools were among the
remedies initiated to remove vestiges of racial segregation.
RELATIONSHIP TO THE FIELD OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION
magnet programs are a small but significant part of the broader field of
law-related education (LRE). In 1978 the Law-Related Education Act defined LRE
as "education to equip nonlawyers with knowledge and skills pertaining to the
law, the legal process, and the legal system, and the fundamental principles and
values on which these are based."
There are national, state, and local LRE programs. The degree of the
institutionalization of LRE in the school or district varies greatly. Sometimes
LRE is brought to classrooms through the initiative of innovative teachers who
act without institutional support. But LRE can also be organized as a
district-wide program, usually through infusion into the curriculum from
kindergarten through high school. Law magnet programs are examples of LRE at the
most comprehensive end of the continuum. In them, developing an understanding of
the law and exploring careers in the legal professions permeate the formal and
informal curriculum. Although many students choose magnet schools because they
are interested in pursuing careers in law-related professions, the primary
purpose of these schools is to prepare students for citizenship.
Whether or not court-ordered desegregation
caused their creation, most law magnet programs have racially and ethnically
diverse student populations. A percentage breakdown of student populations
reveals the following averages: African American--51%, Asian American--3%,
Caucasian--30%, Mexican American or Hispanic--15%, and Native American--0.2%.
Only about 40% of the responding programs indicate that three-fourths or more of
their student body is comprised of only one of the above groups. More often, the
student populations include two or three ethnic or racial categories.
Another interesting aspect of the law magnet student population is the gender
balance. Twenty-two out of 24 responding schools report a majority of female
students. One inner city school reports that over 90% of the students are
female. Only one school reports a male majority. Within the high school setting,
the size of the law magnet program can be large, with an enrollment of 100-240
students. Smaller programs may have 25-100 students.
More than half of the programs surveyed
were created in the 1990s, while about 20% began in the late 1980s and another
20% began before 1985. Many programs combine the study of law with the study of
a related field, such as public affairs/policy, business, criminal justice,
finance, international studies, military science, law enforcement,
public/community service, and government; the latter two are most common. Most
law magnet programs are located in large metropolitan areas. In 1996, for
example, the boroughs of New York City included 71 law magnet programs.
Most programs have county or local funds plus at
least one other funding source. More than half indicate state or federal funds.
A few report court-mandated funding. Community groups and businesses and
corporations provide other sources of funding.
Harry Garvin, Legal Coordinator of a program in Savannah, Georgia, is one
good example of an effective fund raiser. Garvin has received funding from
various sources by seeking lists of educational grantors from the United States
Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and state department of
education. Mr. Garvin also contacts the Georgia state departments of industry
and tourism to request an annual list of major industries moving to his state.
He believes that a new company is more inclined than an established one to
provide funds because it probably has not yet been approached by many local
charitable organizations. Being new to a community provides a strong incentive
to seek favorable publicity. Dr. Garvin has received in-kind donations from
local cable companies, television stations, telephone and cellular phone
companies, computer/software companies, and military bases.
LRE has always emphasized the use of
community resources to make the learning process relevant, experiential, and
interactive. Law magnet programs depend on their communities for support, most
often using members of the law-enforcement community and the court system. Local
bar associations, law schools, and undergraduate schools or community colleges
with criminal justice courses can also offer assistance. State bar associations,
state LRE projects, individual attorneys, and law firms provide additional
The most common types of courses offered
are United States history, civic education, global issues, world history,
constitutional law, local/state government, and federal government. A wide
variety of other courses are sometimes offered, such as business law, forensic
science, international law, court interpreting, criminal justice, law
enforcement, law and literature, mediation, and trial advocacy and tactics. Law
magnet programs offer a spectrum of educational options ranging from vocational
training to college preparation. While the programs include some form of career
education, they share the underlying goal of instilling in their students an
interest in and understanding of the law.
Law magnet programs emphasize active learning opportunities. Most programs
include mock trials, community service, and internships. Survey respondents
indicate that mediation is a component of more than 80% of the programs. Mentor
programs are used by almost 75%. Many programs include trips to law-related
settings, especially the courts.
Immediately after the decision is made to
create a law magnet program, an advisory board should be formed. The members
should number 10-20 and include representatives from the police, the judiciary,
law schools, the state legislature, community colleges, local law firms, local
and state bar associations, the district attorney's office, and legal
secretaries. Recognizable names help the image of the program, and a list of the
advisory board members should appear on the program's letterhead stationery. The
most intensive work of the advisory board occurs in the formative stage of the
law magnet program, but continued participation is vital to the maintenance and
development of each program. Board members provide advice and resources through
their connections to the community. They open doors to financial and in-kind
support and recruit law-related professionals to serve as consultants, mentors
to students, and teachers for law magnet programs.
Inservice training for teachers is widely available. Many national and state
LRE centers and projects schedule professional development conferences and
annual summer institutes for teachers. They also develop curricula and
instructional materials, including videotapes and software. For more information
about teacher training, contact the National Law-Related Education Resource
Center of the American Bar Association.
Finally, contacting existing magnet programs can assist groups in shaping the
direction of their own new programs. Site visits provide concrete examples of
how programs can be structured as well as personal opportunities for answering
By early 1996, the number of known law magnet
programs had grown to more than 100 in 17 states. These programs provide
interesting and practical courses for their students. While exploration of
law-related careers may be a focus, the opportunities offered in these programs
equip students to be informed, engaged citizens. The success of these programs
warrants wide replication to ensure that more young people learn the importance
of understanding and participating in our constitutional democracy.
For a list of law magnet programs and other information about all aspects of
law-related education, contact the National Law-Related Education Resource
Center, American Bar Association/Youth Education, 541 N. Fairbanks Court,
Chicago, IL 60611-3314; telephone: (312) 988-5735; e-mail:
[email protected] <REFERENCES>REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of resources includes references used to prepare this
Digest. The items followed by an ED number are available in microfiche and/or
paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information
about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield,
Virginia 22153-2852; telephone numbers are (703) 440-1400 and (800) 443-3742.
Entries followed by an EJ number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS
IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through EDRS. However, they can be
located in the journal section of most larger libraries by using the information
provided or requested through Interlibrary Loan.
Clinchy, Evans. "The Changing Nature of Our Magnet Schools." NEW SCHOOLS, NEW
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Hunter, Alyce. "Magnet Magic: A Consideration of Choice and Change." Paper
presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Secondary School
Principals, New Orleans, LA, February 1994. ED 369 152.
Leming, Robert S. ESSENTIALS OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION. ERIC Digest.
Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education;
Chicago, IL: American Bar Association's National Law-Related Education Resource
Center, 1995. ED 390 779.
MAGNET SCHOOLS: PROMOTING EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND QUALITY EDUCATION. Washington, DC.: Office for Civil Rights, 1989. ED 343 194.
Steel, Lauri, and Roger Levine. EDUCATIONAL INNOVATIONS IN MULTIRACIAL
CONTEXTS: THE GROWTH OF MAGNET SCHOOLS IN AMERICAN EDUCATION. Palo Alto, CA:
American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, 1994. ED 370 232.