Law professor gives voice to public school students

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Kristi Bowman, associate professor at Michigan State University College of Law, was interested in law from a very young age, though the focus of her interest changed over time.

“In an abstract sense, I enjoy law’s focus on the precision of ideas and language,” she says.

“In a practical sense, it’s important to me that law be a vehicle for social justice, which is a large part of why I write about the rights of public school students – a group of nearly 50 million nationwide who have very little political clout.”

Bowman, who earned her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Drake University, graduated magna cum laude in 2001 from the Duke University Law School, where she served as Articles Editor of the Duke Law Journal and Associate Executive Editor of the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy. She simultaneously received her master’s degree in humanities from Duke.

An education law class at the University of North Carolina, while she was enrolled at nearby Duke Law School, was a turning point.

“I knew I’d found the ideas I wanted to think about for a long time,” she says. “The ideas and issues I cared most about – constitutional law, politics, education as supposedly the great equalizer – all came together.

“Even as a junior associate, much of my work focused on constitutional law. As a scholar, it’s important to me that my scholarship allows me to connect with practicing attorneys who represent students or districts, and also with colleagues in various disciplines who are writing about education law and policy.”

The author of numerous articles examining public school students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, Bowman has published in several journals, including the North Carolina Law Review, the American University Law Review, and the University of Cincinnati Law Review.

Her publications include “Before School Districts Go Broke: A Proposal for Federal Reform,” “Pursuing Educational Opportunities for Latino Students,” “The Civil Rights Roots of Tinker’s Disruption Tests,” and “A New Strategy for Pursuing Racial and Ethnic Equality in Public Schools.”

She has presented at conferences at home and abroad and been quoted in several newspapers.

In 2010, she received the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law. She also is a co-author of the fifth edition of the leading education law textbook, Educational Policy and the Law, with Mark Yudof, Betsy Levin, Rachel Moran, and James Ryan, which will be published this summer.

Founder and editor of the SSRN Education Law Abstracting Journal, she is active in several professional organizations including the American Association of Law Schools, for which she was the 2010 Education Law Section Chair. She was the recipient of an MSU Lilly Teaching Fellowship for the 2009-10 academic year.

Bowman served as an assistant professor at Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Ia., where she taught Property, Education Law, and Critical Perspectives on the Law. In 2002, as a lecturer in the Department of Politics, she designed and taught seminars about the Death Penalty, Feminist Legal Theory, and Race and the Law; she also taught an MBA class about Employment Discrimination. While in law school, she taught in the Women’s Studies Program at Duke University.

Prior to teaching, she practiced at Franczek Sullivan, P.C. (now Franczek Radelet), in Chicago, where she represented school districts before state and federal courts regarding constitutional and statutory matters, and worked at the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. She also clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Des Moines.

Bowman, a native of Rockford, Ill., joined the MSU faculty in 2007 and regularly teaches Torts, Property, Education Law, and Street Law. Her community service includes teaching MSU-Law’s Street Law class and serving as a site leader at the 2009 MSU-Law community service day.

“I sometimes tell my students that we – the law faculty – are like personal trainers for their brain,” she says. “It’s incredibly rewarding to help them develop the range of skills they will need to succeed in practice.”

“Watching them turn from laypeople on their first day of law school into newly-minted graduates, soon-to-be-lawyers, three years later is amazing. I’m proud of them throughout their journey with us, and especially when they are sworn in as members of the bar.”

In her spare time, Bowman enjoys walking and playing with her Golden Retriever, reading fiction, travel, gardening, and yoga. She and her husband, Gabriel Wrobel, are expecting their first child in August.