Public Policy Clinic

Utah Public Policy Clinic

The Public Policy Clinic provides law students with an opportunity to effect policy change through public education, community outreach, the legislative process, and complex civil litigation.

To learn more about enrollment in the Public Policy Clinic, visit the clinical program website, or contact Kay Shelton, Associate Director of Clinical Programs, Room 3302, (801) 585-7703. For more information contact us at

In March 2015, the Public Policy Clinic received the University of Utah College of Social Work Moving It Forward Social Justice Award. The Award for Community Organization Advocacy through Education recognizes the persistent and continued initiative and leadership the clinic has shown in furthering the cause of the social and economic justice for our communities.

School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Clinic is currently focused on putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline in Utah.  The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the set of policies and practices that funnel our children towards the criminal justice system instead of the higher education system.  Here, in Utah, the imposition of harsh school discipline begins in elementary school; students with disabilities are twice as likely to be disciplined as non-disabled students; and students of color are disciplined one and a half to three and a half times more often than expected. The over-use of school discipline has consequences for both the students disciplined (they are more likely to drop out of high school) and for the economy of our state and the safety of our communities (students who drop out are more likely to be arrested as adults).

The clinic’s first publication “From Fingerpaint to Fingerprints: The School to Prison Pipeline in Utah” was released on October 6, 2014.

View the press release »

Misbehavior or Misdemeanor? A Report on Utah’s School-to-Prison Pipeline

May 2017 – The school to prison pipeline is a national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This trend is exacerbated by zero tolerance policies and criminalizing behavior that should be handled inside schools instead of resorting to law enforcement action. Students who are suspended, expelled, referred to law enforcement, or have a school related arrest are more likely to not finish high school than their peers.

Within this pipeline are major issues that need to be addressed. There are unacceptably high racial disparities. We are suspending too many kids. Despite common belief, Utah is not doing any better than the nation at large. The U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) has provided data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools since 1968. The following report uses this data to explore these areas and how they apply to Utah specifically.

View the report Misbehavior or Misdemeanor? »

School to Prison Pipeline – Summit in Review

In the fall of 2015 the S.J. Quinney College of Law hosted a summit on behalf of the Public Policy Clinic to discuss the impact of school discipline. Participants included teachers, administrators, school resource officers, and other community partners. The summit focused on disproportionate discipline rates in Utah which were derived from U.S. Department of Education data, and ways to assist Utah schools.

View the School to Prison Pipeline – Summit in Review »


View the report, From Fingerpaint to Fingerprints: The Utah School-to-Prison Pipeline



STPP and American Indians

American Indians students in Utah feel the brunt of overuse of school disciplinary actions. Nationally, 22% of all American Indian students receive disciplinary action at school, compared to 14.1% of all white students. In Utah, these students are almost four times more likely to receive a school disciplinary action compared to their white counterparts. A number of factors create a student population already extremely vulnerable to low graduation rates. The data indicates that these vulnerabilities are being compounded by the frequent use of school discipline and law enforcement, instead of being mitigated by positive behavioral interventions and supports

The clinic’s second publication “Disparities in Discipline: A Look at School Disciplinary Actions for Utah’s American Indian Students” was released May 22, 2015.

View the press release »

View the report, Disparities in Discipline: A Look at School Disciplinary Actions for Utah’s American Indian Students »