‘Know Your Rights Day’ expands to two Detroit high schools

MSU College of Law partnered recently with Cass Technical and Renaissance high schools in Detroit to engage students in conversations about race, policing, and Fourth Amendment rights.

The annual “Know Your Rights Day” workshop was developed by MSU Law’s First Amendment Clinic in response to growing concerns about the safety of high school and university students who might be involved in difficult police encounters. This year, 35 MSU Law students participated.

“Know Your Rights Day” received the 2024 MSU Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award, recognizing the MSU Law students’ work with thousands of Detroit students.

Alumni Gabrielle Boyer Ragland and Professor Nancy Costello developed the workshop in 2016 and recruited law students and Cass Tech teachers to participate.

MSU Law students Ebony Ragotzy and Payton Wells were the lead organizers for Cass Technical High School and Hailey Judd served as the lead organizer for Renaissance High School.

“The high school students were so focused on what we were teaching they were able to reiterate facts about the law almost verbatim,” said Ragotzy. The law students who volunteered their time were so eager and excited that it kept the students engaged. I loved everything about the event. I am thankful to Professor Costello whose passion for change keeps the event alive.”

Volunteering at the workshop made a big impact on MSU Law students as well.

Estephanie Torres said the workshop showed which area of the law she will focus on.

“That experience was a game changer and I finally feel like I have found my calling,” Torres said. “I'm determined to let this newfound purpose guide me as I continue to support and empower high school students all across the country.”

The First Amendment Law Clinic is the only clinical program in the country solely dedicated to the protection of student speech and press rights.

During the workshop, Detroit high school students are taught how to respond during police stops and protect themselves from potentially threatening encounters – by knowing their Fourth Amendment rights.

The workshops give students a safe space to talk about race and discrimination as well as share their experiences.

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