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Monisha Cherayil, Attorney

Monisha Cherayil

Monisha Cherayil came to the Public Justice Center in 2009 as a Francis D. Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow, and currently practices as a staff attorney in the PJC’s Education Stability and Workplace Justice Projects. Her accomplishments include helping to launch the Maryland Suspension Representation Project – a statewide effort to provide free legal representation to students facing disciplinary removals from school; securing settlements to recover unpaid wages and damages on behalf of classes of restaurant workers, construction workers, roadside flaggers, and other low-wage employees; and successfully advocating for legislation to allow unaccompanied homeless youth to pursue college tuition-free. Her practice reflects a commitment to the PJC model of enforcing and expanding the rights of oppressed individuals while pursuing systemic change.

Prior to joining the PJC, Monisha clerked for the Honorable Judge Phyllis Thompson on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. She also worked for Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Boston, and the Harrison Institute for Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center. Monisha graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with honors in 2008 and from Brandeis University with honors and a joint degree in economics and political science in 2005.

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Every child should have access to an education. But school district practices often keep kids from attending and succeeding in school. Overuse of suspension and expulsion pushes kids out of school without addressing the underlying causes of behavior. Paperwork requirements, zoning policies, fees, school uniform rules, and transportation policies make it hard for students who are homeless or in foster care to enroll and attend classes.

The Public Justice Center’s Education Stability Project seeks to advance racial equity in public education by combatting the overuse of practices like suspension, expulsion, and school-based arrest that disproportionately target Black and brown children and push students out of school. We also seek to eliminate barriers to school enrollment and success facing homeless children and children in foster care. We use a range of legal and advocacy tools to improve the systems that educate Maryland’s youth.

In particular, the Education Stability Project:

Addresses practices that push students out of school, including suspension, expulsion, transfers to alternative school, and school-based arrest. These practices can prevent or discourage young people from staying on track to complete their education and harm youth of color at a higher rate than their white peers. As the lead member of the Maryland Suspension Representation Project, we take on these challenges through individual representation in suspension and expulsion cases, know-your-rights education for youth and parents, and systemic advocacy.

Advocates to ensure that children who are homeless or in foster care can stay in school, by enforcing the McKinney-Vento Act and Fostering Connections Act across Maryland. These laws give homeless students and students in foster care the right to stay in school and receive the support needed for their success. This support includes the opportunity to stay in the same school following an address change, school transportation, waiver of school fees, guarantee of immediate enrollment without paperwork, and many other rights.

If you are looking for legal assistance, call us at (410) 625-9409 or visit our Get Legal Help pages for more information on school suspensions and expulsions and students who are homeless or in foster care.

Impact

PJC advocacy prompts reform of Baltimore County school discipline policy

Seniors graduate after challenging unnecessary suspensions

Tackled, arrested, suspended…for trying to call for a ride home: Advocacy reverses inappropriate suspension, prompts training of school staff