William & Mary Law School welcomes alumna Brianna M. Crews ’19 who has joined the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic (PELE) as a Post-Graduate Legal Fellow. Crews will oversee the development of the Empowering Military Families in Special Education project.
“Brianna was a standout advocate while a law student, and we are thrilled to have her rejoin us as the PELE Clinic’s first-ever Fellow,” said Christina Jones, Professor of the Practice and PELE Clinic Director. "She has a heart for the work, a deep understanding of the issues, and an unflagging work ethic that will propel our Clinic forward.”
As an alumna of the Law School and PELE Clinic, Crews said she is delighted to return to William & Mary and is honored by this opportunity to participate in a clinic project dedicated to serving military communities in accessing special education. During her time as a PELE student, Crews advocated for students with disabilities to receive appropriate educational services that would allow them to access their education. Additionally, Crews assisted in the development of informational material and presentations to educate parents about their rights to enable them to advocate on their children’s behalf. Crews then took that foundation to New York where she worked with Legal Services NYC’s Bronx Education Unit (LSNYC). There, she argued a case at a due process hearing and participated in the pretrial litigation of a § 1983 federal suit based on disability discrimination against a student in violation of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, American with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
During her work with the PELE Clinic and LSNYC, Crews observed how other issues often affected the students’ access to education, specifically issues at home and with the school-to-prison pipeline; this prompted Crews to learn about family law and criminal law to improve her advocacy. Crews interned with a family court judge, the Honorable Emily Miskel of the 470th District Court in Collin County, Texas, where she observed child custody proceedings, and with the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Gloucester County, where she appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth in both Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court and Circuit Court on matters including probation violations, plea agreements, and sentencing hearings.
Crews received her B.S. in history and English from Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) Honors College. During her undergraduate studies, Crews worked for Upward Bound, a federal education program dedicated to assisting underprivileged high school students in achieving their post-secondary goals. Her work with Upward Bound taught Crews the value of educational supports to transition students from the secondary-education system into adulthood and inspired Crews’ honor thesis, a qualitative study on the impact of the Upward Bound program on students’ post-secondary success.
In addition to her work with Upward Bound, Crews spent three years working on the East Texas War and Memory Project, a project dedicated to collecting and preserving the oral histories of Texas veterans from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Inspired by one of the interviews she conducted, Crews presented at the East Texas Historical Association Conference a paper titled, “Escaping the Hurtgen: Then and Now,” weaving together the story of an East Texas soldier who fought in the WWII Allied Operation Overlord and the historical significance of the operation. Through her work in this project, she developed a deep respect for the military community and the challenges that they bear in service to our country. As a student at the Law School, she was a member of the Women’s Law Society and the Christian Legal Society. She is licensed to practice law in Texas.
“As a prospective law student with a passion for education law, I was determined to enroll at a law school that would equip me as an advocate and share my dedication to education law. William & Mary emerged as the obvious choice when I learned about the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic,” Crews said. “The PELE Clinic is where I first learned education advocacy, and it seems only fitting to return now as a fellow. I am energized by this opportunity to train other eager law students and to serve this community as a citizen-lawyer.”
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America’s first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.