ACLU Of Texas Youth Advocacy, Policy Interns, And Law Clerks Devote Summer To Protecting Civil Liberties

Jun 27, 2011 Print This Post

Students’ Research And Analysis Further Goals of State’s Preeminent Government Watchdog Organization

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, 832-691-7013;

AUSTIN – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas has recruited a select group of high school, graduate school and law school students for intensive legal and policy research and advocacy internships this summer.

As youth advocacy interns, Ian McCurley and Solveij Praxis, both seniors this fall at Westlake High School in the Austin area, are beginning their second year as interns with the ACLU of Texas. They began training more than 12 months ago with the ACLU of Texas Youth Lege Team. During the recent regular legislative session, Ian and Solveij concentrated on the ACLU of Texas “Educate Don’t Incarcerate” legislative advocacy campaign, aimed at decriminalizing school discipline policies. They were part of the successful coalition that achieved passage of significant school discipline reform legislation.

“From advocating for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline at the Legislature earlier this year, including testifying before Senate and House Committees, to their current work researching and drafting ‘Know Your Rights’ presentations to educate their peers throughout the state, Ian and Solveij have been and continue to be invaluable assets to our policy team,” said Frank Knaack, Policy and Advocacy Strategist for the ACLU of Texas.

Graduate and law school policy interns are also working on the ‘Know Your Rights’ program for Texas school students and parents. “Our policy and youth advocacy interns are creating a curriculum designed to educate Texas students and parents about their rights in the Texas education system as guaranteed under the US Constitution and the laws of Texas. Our interns’ expertise, fresh ideas and dedication are key to our efforts to advance the civil rights and liberties of all Texas youth,” said Matt Simpson, Policy Strategist for the ACLU of Texas.

Law school students also play a key role in the ACLU of Texas Legal Program. “Summer law clerks are an absolutely invaluable resource for the ACLU of Texas. Under the supervision of ACLU of Texas attorneys, law clerks investigate complaints, research relevant law, and help us bring civil rights cases all across the state. The energy and enthusiasm summer law clerks bring to the office inspire the whole staff,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas.

Photos and additional bios of ACLU of Texas summer 2011 interns follow:

Youth Advocacy Interns

Solveij Praxis
Solvei will be a senior at Westlake High School and before this internship she worked with the ACLU of Texas as a member of the youth legislative team. She is glad to have this opportunity to expand her knowledge of youth rights and responsibilities.
Ian McCurley
Ian will also be a senior at Westlake High School, and was a member of the youth legislation team with the ACLU of Texas. He is currently working on Know Your Rights trainings, and is glad for the advocacy experience he has gained from working with the ACLU of Texas.

Legal Interns

Alissa Parsley
Alissa was born and raised in Austin, and attends the University of Texas School of Law, where she is focusing on immigration law. This summer, Alissa’s tasks include writing a legal memo on the Equal Access Act and students’ right to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in public secondary schools; drafting a report on religious entanglement in Texas public schools; and preparing a Know Your Rights presentation to students participating in Texas GSA Network’s Youth Activist Camp on how to successfully set up GSAs at their schools.
Tassity Johnson
Tassity grew up in Houston, and attends Yale Law School. Her interests include literature, cultural theory, buying too many used books, and spending too much time on the Internet. This summer, Tassity is investigating legal issues relating to the solitary confinement of juveniles, and researching the grievance and exhaustion procedures used in different Texas state and federal prisons pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
Tim Neal
Tim was born in New Jersey, grew up in Dallas, and currently attends the University of Texas School of Law. Tim is a devoted Longhorns fan, is a movie buff, and a comic book geek. This summer, Tim is assisting in the drafting of a report on conditions of confinement for immigrant inmates held in privately run facilities used exclusively to house noncitizens serving criminal sentences. These facilities, like the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) in Pecos Texas, are infamous for providing substandard medical care to inmates, many of whom have committed no crime beyond illegally re-entering the country. The ACLU of Texas is currently litigating a federal civil rights case on behalf of the family of an epileptic inmate who died in solitary confinement after being denied access to life-saving medical care at RCDC.

Policy Interns

Hannah Zimmermann
Hannah grew up in Northampton, MA, is currently a student at the University of Texas School of Law, and hopes to pursue a career in immigration and international human rights law. This summer Hannah has been drafting a comprehensive summary of civil-rights-related developments in the 2011 legislative session, as well as reviewing and analyzing bills related to the School to Prison Pipeline.
Sara Myklebust
Born in Tucson, AZ, Sara is a student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT, focusing on immigration policy and social issues. She like to play disc (frisbee) golf, camp, swim and cook in her free time. Sara has been advocating for humane immigration policies at the legislature, and also helping to write Youth Rights trainings.
Elizabeth Stephens
Elizabeth is a candidate for an MA in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University. She is interested in a career applying a human rights approach to international development. This summer she is creating a Know Your Rights Curriculum for youth and public school students and piloting these trainings with partner organizations in Austin.