UMKC Law Receives Support for New Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

UMKC School of Law has continued to seek to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal education field. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UMKC awarded the School of Law part of the 2017 Inclusive Excellence Grant to support two new diversity initiatives: Courageous Conversations and the Kansas City Youth Court pipeline program.

The first grant will support Courageous Conversations, also called, “Diversity Skills Development Teach-Ins.” This is an initiative in collaboration with the Office of Student Services, the UMKC School of Law Professional and Career Development Center, the University Title IX office and women’s center, the Missouri Bar, and student organizations at the law school. The program focuses on a series of teach-ins on the skills and knowledge necessary to create an environment dedicated to civility and respect. The law school believes lawyers have a special duty to society – to insure peaceful resolution of disputes and to craft structures that facilitate social and economic relationship.

Courageous Conversations, similar to The Missouri Bar’s initiative, Courageous Collaborations, is designed for students to develop professional skills and attitudes that will improve their ability to function in a diverse legal industry and the learning environment in the law school. Some of the discussion topics planned include implicit  bias and attorney advocacy, how to engage in difficult conversations while maintaining respect and professionalism, professionalism in the workplace, and bystander intervention training (Green Dot). The target population for the program is the law school student body. 20% of the student body self identifies as ethnic minorities, 29% are first-generation college graduates, and the class is nearly evenly split between males and females. Our diverse student organizations further inform the student body (i.e. the Asian Pacific Islander Law Student Association, Black Law Student Association etc.). By participating in this program, students will be more comfortable discussing challenging topics and gain a greater appreciation for attorneys’ roles for fostering respect in a diverse community. The grant will cover the academic year from August 2017 to April 2018. UMKC Law hopes to continue the initiative beyond the 2017-18 academic year.

The second grant will support a pipeline program based out of the collaboration between the Kansas City Youth Court and UMKC School of Law. This grant will fund a law student coordinator who will build this pipeline more directly between the KC Youth Court and the law school.

The KC Youth Court is a diversion program for the Jackson County Family Court in collaboration with the Kansas City Police Department and the Hickman Mills School District. The KC Youth Court is led by Legal Director and Professor Mary Kay O’Malley.  Rather than going before the Jackson County Family Court, youth offenders are offered the opportunity to have their cases heard in Youth Court. They are represented by juveniles, prosecuted by juveniles and judged by juveniles. While the youth court is administered by adults who conduct training and are present at court hearings, the sentencing decisions are made by the juvenile judges. Youths between the ages of 13-18 receive fourteen hours of training by youth court administrators and members of the Missouri Bar and take a bar examination. The KC Youth Court not only helps develop interest among high school students in the legal field, it also does so in a way that focuses on diverse and underrepresented communities within Kansas City, Mo.

The pipeline program will develop more interactions between the KC Youth Court and law students and establish a formal connection among the youth court, youth court judges, lawyers and the law school. The ultimate goal of this pipeline would be to recruit these youths for law school and, in a long-term sense, increase diversity in the legal profession. In turn, the KC Youth Court would enhance the learning environment and strengthen the KC Youth Court and youths’ relationships with the community. UMKC Law intends to hire a student coordinator in Summer 2017, who will participate in the program and offer youth court attorneys and judges opportunities throughout the year.

The University values diversity as central to its mission as an urban-serving research university and as a driver of excellence in teaching and learning. UMKC Law shares this value. Our programs benefit from dynamic and diverse student populations, faculty and staff that represent the many facets of our city, the region and the world. With the pipeline program and the Courageous Conversations initiative, UMKC Law can continue to cultivate long-term, meaningful diversity.

Published: May 31, 2017