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UT College of LawThe University of Tennessee College of Law has won a $90,000 competitive grant to broaden its work in assisting lawyers who represent school-aged students in education cases.

The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education distributed $1.2 million in grant funds, which were generated by a surplus in Continuing Legal Education fees.

The Children’s Advocacy Network-Lawyers Education Advocacy Resource Network (CAN-LEARN) Project at UT Knoxville was one of 14 Tennessee projects to receive an award.

CAN-LEARN serves as a backup and support center for lawyers who engage in education representation. CAN-LEARN is not a source of direct representation nor is it a pro bono project.

Created in 2003 with the assistance of a grant from Equal Justice Works, a national firm devoted to public interest law, CAN-LEARN recognized a large unmet need for legal representation on behalf of school-aged children and youth in education matters. Both regular and special education students — particularly low-income students, students of color and rural students — suffer from lack of available legal representation.

Through its programs, CAN-LEARN has built a statewide network of lawyers who are skilled in education cases.

This network serves as a resource for small firms, solo practitioners and public interest lawyers facing the challenges associated with education-related cases, including special education, suspension and expulsion, juvenile court, No Child Left Behind, foster children, racial and ethnic discrimination, migrant children, bullying and others.

Through a referral system, clients with education-related issues are referred to CAN-LEARN network attorneys.

The CAN-LEARN network of attorneys meets monthly at the College of Law for seminars, workshops and training, as well as to strategize about and analyze issues related to education cases in which they are involved.

"This grant will allow CAN-LEARN to build on its many initiatives designed to benefit children and youth who are not benefiting from the educational system. We very much appreciate the confidence in our project shown by the Supreme Court’s Blue Ribbon Commission," said Distinguished Professor Dean Hill Rivkin, CAN-LEARN’s faculty director. The project is staffed part-time by staff attorney Barbara H. Dyer, a lawyer with extensive experience in education advocacy.