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 (REQUIRED for 9th grade)

Law Day is a half-day program designed to familiarize ninth grade students with the US legal system through mock trials, round table discussions, and interactive case studies. One Friday afternoon each quarter, the 9th graders will travel to three local law firms and partner organizations to explore basic legal principles under the instruction of trained attorneys and staff. Students are encouraged to wear professional dress as outlined in the student handbook. Students who wear jeans to Law Day will be asked to change as they are not considered professional dress.

Howard Law Academy (REQUIRED for 10th grade)

Thurgood Marshall Academy and Howard University School of Law partner to provide half-day programming created to encourage the 10th grade students to see how law is present in their everyday lives. Further, it helps our students find their voice and gain the tools necessary to navigate our democratic society. Twice each semester, the tenth grade will travel to Howard University’s School of Law campus to engage in programming taught by law students and professors. This program helps students understand the requirements and steps needed to get from an undergraduate institution to a job at a law firm.

Law Firm Tutoring (REQUIRED for 11th grade)

Every other Tuesday (5:00 pm–6:00 pm), 11th grade students travel to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s partner law firms to complete their homework, learn about the TMA legal skills, and explore the topic of college/university with the assistance of legal professionals including attorneys, paralegals, and staff. Tutors at law firms work one-on-one with students to prepare for TMA Portfolio, learn about different life skills, and discuss college/career goals. Dinner is provided for all students at the law firms. Students and tutors are supervised by Thurgood Marshall Academy faculty/staff members.

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.