July 31, 2021 MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Janel A. George

Janel A. George is an Associate Professor of Law and the founding Director of the Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy (REELP) Clinic at Georgetown University.  Janel serves as a Section Councilmember and as Co-Chair of the Section's Education Committee. 

Janel A. George

Janel A. George

Where are you from? How have your experiences here, or throughout your upbringing, influenced your passions and aspirations today?

I am originally from Seattle, Washington, but an internship during my second year of law school at the Children’s Defense Fund, Inc. in Washington, DC influenced my decision to come to DC after graduation to work on public policy issues. The experience piqued my interest in working on public policy as a lever to effect change. 

What drives you?

I am inspired by young people of color throughout the country who are working to secure their educational rights and raising awareness about issues of educational inequality. Many students of color have been working for years to remove police from schools (particularly given the data on the negative impact that police presence in schools pose to the experiences and outcomes of students of color). After the racial reckoning that the country experienced after the killing of George Floyd, many school districts passed resolutions and took other actions to remove police from schools—this was the result of the hard work of many students of color. Recently, many students have been speaking out against segregated schools and discriminatory admissions policies. This ongoing work inspires me. 

What is one thing most people do not know about you that you feel they should?

I am also a creative writer and enjoy writing about race and social justice like this recently published personal essay. My work on civil rights issues informs my creative writing. 

When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?

I hope that my work helps to support the next generation of legislative lawyers leveraging law and policy to advance racial justice. 

What is one issue which you care about or work most on and why?

I do a lot of work on education issues—particularly racial equity in education because I think that access to quality education has such profound consequences for one’s life trajectory. And education has been weaponized as a tool of oppression, ranging from prohibiting enslaved persons from learning how to read or write, to forcing Native American children into residential schools (forced assimilation), to school segregation and resource inequities. I think that it’s important to confront this history and advance the change necessary to ensure that all children have access to quality educational opportunities. 

What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing this issue today?

I think that resistance to examining the truth of American history, exemplified in recent attacks on Critical Race Theory and conflation of Critical Race Theory with anything associated with race, is one of the current challenges impacting education. These attacks have resulted in restrictions on what can be taught in classrooms and penalties being levied against educators who teach about racism or sexism. These kinds of legislative restrictions will have long-term negative consequences for education. Further, without acknowledging and reckoning with the nation’s full history, we risk repeating actions that deepen inequality. My current scholarship as an Associate Professor at Georgetown Law has focused on racial inequality in k-12 education and ways to address it. 

In what corners do you find the greatest support in propelling these issues you work on? In other words, who are your most frequent allies?

Students, parents, and educators are leading the way in pushing for quality educational opportunities. 

What CRSJ project(s) are you working on? Or, what have you undertaken in CRSJ that you found the most rewarding to have worked on? Are there any upcoming events or projects you want us all to know about?

I am continuing to work with CRSJ’s Education Committee and am proud of the work that we are doing to highlight the issues impacting system-involved youth and their access to education as well as continuing work addressing civil rights and education. We have done a range of programs, including commemorating the Brown decision and programming on system-involved youth. We are also working to help lawyers understand what recent legislative restrictions on the teaching of race in schools means for students and educators. We are also working for the upcoming bar year on a project on civics education.