WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 4, 2015 — Allison R. Brown, a former civil rights attorney who most recently was responsible for racial justice grant-making at the Open Society Foundations, has been named the executive director of the newly formed Communities for Just Schools Fund.
Brown assumes leadership of the organization after its launch this summer as the successor to the Just and Fair Schools Fund, which laid the groundwork over the past five years for an expanded effort to challenge harsh school discipline practices and remove barriers to education for under-served communities.
The Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) will function as a national donor collaborative, providing financial support to local groups across the country that are organizing advocates for young people.
“I look forward to leading Communities for Just Schools Fund during such a critical time of community-led organizing and protest for structural transformation in the United States,” said Brown. “Working with the Fund’s grantees and donor members, we’re going to build a better future for our nation’s children and thus, for all of us.”
Brown, 39, is a native of Indianapolis, Ind., who earned her bachelor’s degree at Howard University and her law degree at Harvard University. After working as a law clerk and then as an associate at Crowell & Moring in Washington, she joined the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department where she investigated and prosecuted cases aimed at ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students and challenging the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
After six years at the Justice Department, Brown left to open her own consulting firm and then joined the Open Society Foundations in 2013, where she was responsible for that philanthropy’s efforts to eliminate racial profiling and disproportionate student discipline.
“Allison Brown has the experience and energy to forge the kind of partnerships that deliver results,” said Nadia Brigham, program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and a member of the donor collaborative supporting the CJSF. “She brings a keen understanding of the field, a unique perspective on this work and a passion and vision that will move the fund more firmly in the direction of field building and leadership. We’re excited about what’s next.”
CJSF begins its life providing grants to nearly 30 groups that organize young people, parents and caregivers, educators and community members to advocate on behalf of students who are disproportionately impacted by the over-use of exclusionary school discipline practices, including suspensions, expulsions and arrests in schools.
The non-profit organizations supported by CJSF are local in focus but have national impact and reach. They work to organize communities to stand up for positive and supportive school climates, working closely with school officials, police departments and community leaders to implement alternatives to “zero tolerance” and other harsh practices.
The need for such advocacy has been dramatically highlighted over the past month, starting with the suspension and arrest of a 14-year-old Muslim boy in Texas who built a digital clock that some mistook for a bomb and the violent removal from class last week of a black high school girl by a police officer in South Carolina.
Brown, who in 2012 was named one of the nation’s “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40” by the National Bar Association and IMPACT, lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.
The Communities for Just Schools Fund includes support and participation from the Arcus Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Cricket Island Foundation, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Ford Foundation, Hyams Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Skillman Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and anonymous donors.