Wynn Tashman knows the value of having a supporter and advocate.
“I grew up with a learning disability, and I interned when I lived in Washington, D.C., for the National Disability Rights Network,” Tashman, a UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law student, said. “So I’ve always been really passionate about disability rights advocacy. I have a mom who was a really strong advocate for me in school, and I knew I wanted to play that role for children.”
Thus began his journey in public interest law — an area of law he’s especially thrilled to be pursuing at the Kids’ Court School thanks to a grant from the Boyd School of Law’s Public Interest Law Association.
“I’ve been coordinating the Kids’ Court School clinic under Rebecca Nathanson’s supervision, and it’s been an amazing experience,” he said. “When the children come in and they’re going to have to testify in court most likely, they’re very scared, nervous, worried, even embarrassed. But you can see the positive impact the program has on them. … The smiles on their faces, and being able to see them active, engaged, and able to answer questions – that’s a real impact that you’re having on that child’s life.”
Kids’ Court School, which is based on educational psychology and empirical research, was established to help educate children, between ages 4 and 17, about the courtroom process. The program helps reduce their anxiety before legal proceedings and increase their credibility in court.
“Attorneys do their best to prepare their child clients for court. Kids’ Court School doesn’t prepare them for court; it educates them about court, which is something I think not every attorney has the time to do or maybe even the know-how on what stress techniques will help best,” said Tashman. “So when they come to our program, they’re receiving information that their attorneys might not have been able to provide to them.”
Tashman is a dual-degree (J.D./Ph.D.) student pursuing his Ph.D. through UNLV’s College of Education. He works as a researcher to develop an educational intervention in support of LGBT youth in schools and legal settings, based on the Kids’ Court School model.
“I think of LGBT youth as my main calling card. They’re victimized in schools, bullied and harassed at a rate that’s significantly higher than their non-LGBT peers. But we don’t see them bringing cases to court because they’re not reporting it in the first place,” Tashman said. “So, when we do public interest (work) and try to raise awareness of these issues and advocate for them, then that’s going to … improve the quality of life for these people.”