Michaele N. Turnage Young serves as Senior Counsel and Co-Manager of the Equal Protection Initiative at the Legal Defense Fund (“LDF”), where she litigates education cases. Michaele is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law where she co-teaches LDF’s Racial Equity Strategies course, which is a joint course with New York University School of Law.
Ms. Turnage Young serves as lead counsel in Arnold v. Barbers Hill Independent School District, a hair discrimination case wherein the Court enjoined enforcement of a dress code provision that would have confined students who wore uncut locs to in-school suspension and excluded them from school activities. The Court’s decision, which recognized LDF’s clients’ likelihood of success on their race discrimination, sex discrimination, and freedom of expression claims, has led multiple school districts to revise their dress codes to remove discriminatory language. Ms. Turnage Young recently argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of our clients.
Ms. Turnage Young also represents amici curiae and intervenors in the lawsuits concerning the admissions processes for the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia; the magnet middle schools of Montgomery County, Maryland; and the specialized high schools of New York City. Ms. Turnage Young delivered oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the latter case.
Ms. Turnage Young represented 25 Harvard student and alumni organizations as amici curiae in SFFA v. Harvard from 2018 until the case closed in 2024. Ms. Turnage Young co-authored briefs arguing that the limited consideration of race in admissions advanced equal opportunity, particularly where many applicants’ experiences were inextricably intertwined with race.
In addition, Ms. Turnage Young has represented thousands of Black children and their parents in school desegregation cases in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. After the onset of the pandemic, Ms. Turnage Young advocated for schoolchildren to receive meals and instruction, leading thousands of students to begin receiving meals and instruction.
Prior to joining LDF in 2017, Ms. Turnage Young served as a Trial Attorney with the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. There, she prosecuted 13 school desegregation cases in seven federal court jurisdictions across the country. Her efforts led school districts to desegregate their students and faculties, equalize access to course offerings, equalize their facilities, transform their discipline practices, and dramatically reduce the amount of instructional time students lost to exclusionary discipline. Ms. Turnage Young received the Attorney General’s Special Achievement Award in recognition of her work advancing equal educational opportunity.
Ms. Turnage Young clerked for the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She received her law degree from Harvard Law School, where she served as a student attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and as an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Ms. Turnage Young earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA.