Law at Thurgood Marshall Academy

Thurgood Marshall was founded by law students and attorneys in the DC Street Law clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. Street Law is a program that brings law students and professors into high school classrooms to educate students about the law and their rights. While teaching at a neighborhood high school, these law students and professors realized how limited opportunities dramatically stunted the academic and social development of students. They saw an opportunity to use legal principles as teaching tools to educate and empower the bright and energetic students they encountered.

The study of law and the search for justice are constants in the Thurgood Marshall Academy education. For example, social studies classes research the law across culture and time, literature classes analyze timeless issues of justice and the rule – or misrule – of law, and Spanish classes examine social policy cross-culturally. Even science classes explore the law in a physics unit about patenting inventions, where students create an invention and professional patent attorneys visit the classroom to discuss the students’ inventions and their own careers. In portfolio, students present on a law-related activity completed in social studies.

In addition to addressing the legal aspects inherent in course content, Thurgood Marshall Academy stresses community involvement and the critical thinking skills required for full participation in the dialogue of citizenship. Our goal is not that every one of our graduates become a lawyer but rather that they all learn the skills that lawyers have—the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and advocate persuasively for themselves and their communities.

The TMA Legal Skills:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Negotiation
  • Argument
  • Advocacy
  • Research

Below are descriptions of our in- and out-of-school law-related programs.

Law Day

Local law firms host our ninth-grade students in monthly workshops designed to familiarize students with the US legal system through mock trials, roundtable discussions, and interactive case studies. Previous Law Day topics have included desegregation, civil rights and discrimination, gang laws, the First Amendment, consumer rights, and the death penalty.

Howard Law Academy

Howard School of Law hosts our tenth-grade students in quarterly workshops designed to supplement students legal knowledge with critical thinking, advocacy and policy creation skills. TMA students’ evaluated national and global human rights issues during mock trials, discussions, debates and motion activities. Previous Howard Law Academy topics have included School to Prison Pipeline, Community Safety, Youth Immigration, Intersectionality and Labor Rights.

Law Firm Tutoring

Every Tuesday after school, 11th-graders and selected 12th-graders travel to our partner law firms to complete their homework with the help of legal professionals. Tutors at law firms work one-on-one with students to prepare for tests, complete projects, and discuss college and career goals. Dinner is provided for all students at the law firms. Our Partners page lists participating law firms.

Youth Judicial Internship Program

Students in this program intern for judges appointed to the DC Superior Court system and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. As interns, students apply the lessons learned in the classroom and think critically about the legal system. Interns learn how a judge prepares for a case, how a judge makes decisions, and what makes a sound legal argument. The group then meets each Friday to discuss their experience and hear from guest speakers.

Justice Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall Academy upholds Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s legacy of equal opportunity through our commitment to providing an excellent education for all students.

Long before he argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark case that outlawed the policy of “separate but equal,” Marshall used the courts to systematically challenge segregation. He successfully sued the University of Maryland School of Law in 1933 for refusing to accept Donald Gaines Murray, an African-American graduate of Amherst College with flawless credentials. He later became the Chief Counsel for the NAACP and argued an impressive 32 cases before the Supreme Court, winning 29 of them.

Marshall believed that integration was the only remedy for the damaging effects of racism, and the cases he argued integrated one institution after another. After he integrated the University of Maryland Law School, he integrated political primary elections in Smith v. Allwright (1944), successfully argued that racially-based restrictive covenants were legally unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), desegregated graduate schools nationally (1950), and integrated the nation’s public schools in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). He also ended segregation on buses and ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott by winning Browder v. Gayle. During this period, he was also asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging nations of Ghana and Tanzania.

His record of advocacy and success led President Kennedy to appoint him to the US Court of Appeals and President Johnson to appoint him to the office of US Solicitor General. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him to the US Supreme Court, where he amassed a record of strong support for the Constitutional protection of individual rights.

Thurgood Marshall is a fitting namesake for a charter school dedicated to bringing resources to underserved students since the battle for educational equality was a hallmark of his career as a lawyer, public servant, and Supreme Court Justice.