Community Possibilities

Advancing Justice for Georgia's Children with Michael Waller of Georgia Appleseed

March 17, 2021 Ann Price Season 1 Episode 2
Community Possibilities
Advancing Justice for Georgia's Children with Michael Waller of Georgia Appleseed
Show Notes

In this episode, I am joined by Michael Waller, Executive Director of Georgia Appleseed. Georgia Appleseed is one of my Favorite non-profits and in this episode, you will learn why. 

As Executive Director, Michael Waller leads the Georgia Appleseed team in the development of innovative policy solutions and tools to keep Georgia’s children safe at home and in school, and out of the criminal justice system. Michael is a frequent speaker on the devastating consequences of exclusionary school discipline, poor school climate, and unhealthy housing on marginalized children, particularly children in poverty, children of color, and children and youth in foster care.

 Prior to starting with Appleseed as Director of Projects in 2018, Michael was a prosecuting attorney at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for eight years, leading investigations and lawsuits across the country to stop companies and individuals from defrauding economically vulnerable consumers. Before the FTC, Michael was a staff attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, representing indigent clients in housing, domestic violence, and consumer rights cases. He came to Legal Aid from WilmerHale, an international law firm based in Washington, DC.

Michael graduated with a B.A. from University of the South (Sewanee), an M.A. in international affairs from Syracuse University (Maxwell School), an M.T.S. in theological studies from Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and a J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law.

 In this episode we talked about:

1.   Georgia Appleseed’s process for choosing and working on social issues is centered on equity, diversity, and community voice. “Equity is the moral and ethical thing to do.” Michael makes the point that diversity leads to better results for everyone. 

2.   John Dewey’s method of listening and other inspiration. 

3.   We discuss Georgia Appleseed’s work to support children in foster care. We talk about the Education Advocate Pilot Project that I evaluated several years ago. This project led to their more recent work to provide pro bono legal support for children in foster care facing expulsion or long-term suspension. You don’t want to miss this part of our discussion! 

4.   Learn about Georgia Appleseed’s work to dismantle the school to prison pipeline. We talk about policies that schools need to put into place to support students to reduce discipline disparities and reduce the risk for juvenile justice involvement? The secret? Focus on the adults in the system! We talk about Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) as an effective way to improve school climate. Be sure and check out Georgia Appleseed’s Keep the Kids in Class Toolkit which clearly demonstrates that students of color and those with disabilities are more likely to receive out of school discipline, setting them up for failure and increasing the likelihood they won’t graduate.

5.   We also touch on ways to support the whole child. Restorative Justice, mental health, feeding kids and so many things. 

6.   Michael and talk about why accurate reporting of student discipline is so important.

7.   What is next for Georgia Appleseed? Continuing to help dismantle the school to prison pipeline; supporting kids mental and behavioral health needs, supporting LGBTQ students, and their healthy housing work. 

8.       We wrap up our conversation about Michael’s vision for our communities. 

Want to support the work of Georgia Appleseed? Check out the Good Apple Awards