It was 1997, and Blair Network Communications (BNC) needed help. The organization was scrambling after the Board of Education censored an October 1996 episode of the current events show "Shades of Grey," which featured a debate about same-sex marriage. Student First Amendment rights were in question, and Jamie Raskin was the choice for legal counsel.
Now, he's the choice for State Senate.
His defense of Blair students, coupled with his history of supporting education at all levels, makes Raskin's campaign for State Senate in District 20, which includes Blair, very appealing for students, teachers and parents alike. Raskin's steadfast dedication to protecting the voices of students, especially our own Blazers, makes him the ideal choice for students in the State Senate race.
Raskin, a law professor at American University, discovered through his work in the "Shades of Grey" case that high school administrators were quashing the very rights they championed in their Civics classes. With the initiative that makes him such a promising candidate for students, Raskin pursued the issue even further, founding the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project in 1999.
The program, which has been introduced at 20 area high schools, organizes area law-school students to teach high-school students about their constitutional rights. The program is taught using Raskin's book, "We the Students: Supreme Court Cases For and About Students." Raskin drew inspiration from the "Shades of Grey" case in writing his book, which details 50 crucial cases as they affect student rights.
While his history within the Blair community is clear, Raskin's other appeal to Blazers is his emphasis on education. Raskin recognizes that the large immigrant minority in Blair's district needs help adjusting to life in the U.S., especially in dealing with rigorous high-school courses. By supporting increased funding for county English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, Raskin aims to ensure that all MCPS students can receive an equal-opportunity education.
This kind of progressive thinking is just what District 20 needs. Considering that current Senator Ida Ruben represents one of the most diverse and liberal legislative districts in our state, her repeatedly conservative decisions are reason enough for change.
In 2003, for instance, she sponsored the pro-Iraq resolution introduced in the State Senate, much to the chagrin of her constituency in Takoma Park. Ruben also has been a death penalty advocate and has asked fellow senators to double campaign finance limits to expand the role of corporate investors in state political campaigns.
Not surprisingly, Raskin lacks any sort of large corporate funding. At a recent event, Raskin made it clear that big business wants nothing to do with his grassroots campaign: "Of course, they're not offering me any [money]," he said.
This continued attention to the interests of his constituents, especially students, sets Raskin apart. His campaign has shown that Raskin is a new kind of candidate for District 20: one who cares about student voices. In his defense of First Amendment rights in the "Shades of Grey" case an his subsequent national campaign for students' constitutional rights, Raskin worked to improve the educational environment. His progressive platform should not be ignored; the education of future Blair students may depend on it.