The Maryland Suspension Representation Project: Using Legal Action to Address Inappropriate Use of School Discipline for Students with Disabilities

Michael Pinard, J.D., Renuka Rege, J.D., and Megan Berger, J.D.

The Maryland Suspension Representation Project (MSRP) is a partnership between Disability Rights Maryland, Office of the Public Defender, the Public Justice Center and the Youth Education and Justice Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law that provides legal representation for students facing suspension, expulsion, and other disciplinary exclusions from school. It is the first partnership in Maryland to provide free legal representation in school discipline cases to low-income students statewide. MSRP also aims to recruit and train interested attorneys to provide pro bono representation to students at all stages of school discipline proceedings. MSRP grew out of the long-time work and advocacy on school discipline issues by members of the Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline. This presentation will discuss the problem of school disciplinary removal and push-out, how MSRP functions as a partnership, the successes it has achieved, and how it has leveraged its direct representation work to advocate for systemic change.


  • Professor Michael Pinard is the Francis & Harriet Iglehart Professor of Law and Co-director of the Clinical Law Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. He is teaching a new course, Youth Education and Justice Legal Theory and Practice, which is focused on assisting efforts to improve disciplinary processes and procedures in Maryland’s public schools so that students are provided the resources necessary to remain in school and out of the juvenile and criminal justice systems. He has published several law review articles and op-eds on the criminal process, criminal defense lawyering and the interconnections between the reentry of individuals with criminal records and the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. He is currently writing a book on race, criminal records, and reclamation. He was formerly a staff attorney with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City.

  • Renuka Rege is a Staff Attorney at the Public Justice Center in the Education Stability Project. She works to counteract the problem of school pushout driven by suspension, expulsion, transfers to alternative schools, and the lack of positive school climates using a combination of individual representation, community education, and systemic advocacy. Renuka previously worked at a public school in Houston, Texas as a tutor for sixth grade students in reading skills. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 2016 and from Rice University magna cum laude in 2012, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Anthropology.

  • Megan Berger is a staff attorney in the Education Unit at Disability Rights Maryland, formerly Maryland Disability Law Center. She works on the school discipline and juvenile justice projects that seek to stem the disproportionate use of out-of-school removal for students of color and students with disabilities. Megan represents students with disabilities and their families in IEP, Section 504 and school discipline matters, investigates rights violations, and engages in systemic advocacy. She previously worked in the Child Advocacy Unit at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau where she represented youth in the foster care system in court and in special education and school discipline matters. She was also an AmeriCorps volunteer and worked as a youth advocate in a therapeutic residential program serving at-risk youth. Megan graduated from the University of Notre Dame summa cum laude and the University of Maryland School of Law magna cum laude.NARPA presentation description: