Law school conducts ‘Know Your Rights Day’ for high school students

Michigan State University College of Law partnered with Cass Technical High School and Renaissance High School in Detroit to engage high school students in conversations about race, policing, and a young person’s Fourth Amendment rights when dealing with law enforcement.

The Know Your Rights Day workshops were first offered in 2016. The program emerged from MSU Law’s First Amendment Clinic on student free expression and free press rights in response to growing concerns about student safety when involved in difficult police encounters. Then law student Gabrielle Boyer Ragland and Professor Nancy Costello developed the program and recruited law student presenters and Cass Tech teachers interested in participating.

Since that time, the MSU Law Know Your Rights Day program has continued to develop, some years being offered virtually due to the pandemic, and now the program is expanding to include Renaissance High School. This year, 35 MSU Law students have volunteered to support the workshops at the two high schools.

Hailey Judd, Ebony Ragotzy, and Payton Wells.

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.  Ebony said, “Being one of the lead organizers for Know Your Rights
Day was such an honor. The high school students were focused on what we were teaching and were able to reiterate what we were saying about the law almost verbatim. 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 Nancy Costello whose passion for change keeps the event alive.”

MSU College of Law students (left to right) Selita Paea and Estephanie (Nina) Torres present  Know Your Rights Day at Renaissance High School.

In the Know Your Rights workshops, high school students learn about their 4th Amendment constitutional rights, how to respond properly during police stops, and how to protect themselves from potentially threatening encounters with the police.

The workshops open the door for intimate discussions about violence and discrimination based on race. Students are given a space to share experiences of bias and trauma and are encouraged to join in the national discussion on what to do about it.
“As a second-year law student, I’ve been searching for that spark, that feeling of connection with the material I spend so much time studying,” said Estephanie (Nina) Torres.  “I’ve been a bit uncertain about my path, especially with classes focused on preparing for the bar exam and not so much the bigger picture. But recently, everything changed when I volunteered to teach at Renaissance High School for Know Your Rights Day.  Standing up there, discussing the ins and outs of the 4th and 5th amendments, and importantly, feeling like a role model, it was like a light bulb moment. It felt natural, like I was sharing knowledge with my own siblings, making sure they felt understood and felt heard. That experience was a game changer and I finally feel like I have found my calling. Moving forward, I’m determined to let this newfound purpose guide me as I continue to support and empower high schools students all across the country.”