PUBLISHED:March 26, 2021

Wettach and Kaplan '21 present on “Race, Racism and School Choice” at WE ARE's Let’s Talk Racism Conference

Jane Wettach, the William B. McGuire Clinical Professor Emerita of Law, and Zack Kaplan ’21 made a joint presentation on “Race, Racism and School Choice” on behalf of the Children’s Law Clinic at the sixth annual Let’s Talk Racism Conference March 20.

Drawing from Kaplan’s research on charter schools and Wettach’s research on private school vouchers, their presentation focused on school choice mechanisms in North Carolina as they relate to school integration and racial equity.

Kaplan described the historical foundations of various school choice mechanism and theories, many of which trace their roots to white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education, and Wettach reviewed current data and trends regarding the impact of school choice options on school demographics. The pair then facilitated discussion among conference attendees regarding the role that school choice mechanisms can and should play in creating excellent and equitable education opportunities for North Carolina students.

Hosted by Durham-based non-profit We Are (Working to Extend Anti-Racist Education), the virtual conference brought together more than 250 teachers, administrators, and school advocates from across the country to discuss issues of racial equity in K-12 education.

Kaplan, who taught fifth grade in Durham before entering law school, plans to work in North Carolina education and civil rights law after completing a clerkship with North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson. He credits Wettach, who was his faculty mentor in the Public Interest and Public Service (PIPS) certificate program, as a major influence on his career plans. The two collaborated on a special education amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2020 and Kaplan served as Wettach’s research assistant last summer.

“Jane’s incredible work in and commitment to North Carolina education law through the Children’s Law Clinic was a major factor in my decision to come to Duke,” Kaplan said. “Getting the opportunity to learn from and work with her over the last two years as a professor, supervisor, mentor, and colleague, has been an absolute highlight of my law school experience.”

Wettach, who founded the Children’s Law Clinic in 2002 and served as its director until 2019, retired in June 2020. The clinic is led by Interim Director and Senior Lecturing Fellow Crystal Grant and Supervising Attorney and Lecturing Fellow Peggy Nicholson.