The Know Your Rights Project

know your rights, build your power.


Know Your Rights Curriculum


Curriculum Elements

The Know Your Rights curriculum is comprised of five chapters addressing:

  • Interactions with law enforcement
  • Youth rights in school and the school to prison pipeline
  • How to navigate through and out of the juvenile justice system
  • Re-entry into Community and filing for expungement
  • Various juvenile justice policy issues

Each chapter is based on the conditions young people face regarding law enforcement, juvenile justice policy, and resources for advocating for themselves and/or their peers.

Access the Curriculum!

To download the curriculum chapters, click the link above and fill out a Curriculum Use Survey. Once the survey is completed, links to the curriculum chapters are provided.

Timing: Each workshop can be delivered during a typical 50-minute class period for school settings, or extended for two-hour seminar in afterschool and community settings.

Options: Adaptable opening and closing activities, and opportunities for large or small group activities.

Handouts: Each chapter includes a participant packet with workshop-specific information and resources for future reference.



The curriculum was developed by young people who were either formerly involved in the juvenile justice system or are living in communities disproportionately impacted by the juvenile system, family members of youth with juvenile justice involvement and/or mental health needs, and CFJC students, staff and lawyers. The two interactive curricula bring to life information contained in the Know Your Rights graphic novel and parent handbook. The activities utilize a strength-based approach which recognizes the importance of family and community supports, and promotes effective advocacy, mentoring, and leadership development.

The success of the Illinois Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network’s 2011 and 2012 publications, The Juvenile Justice System: A Guide for Families in Illinois, and Know Your Rights, led to development of curricula and community-based workshops to further engage and empower youth and family members in the greater Chicagoland area.

Peer-led education is essential to engage and better inform marginalized community residents, especially low-income youth and families of color. The workshops also serve as a platform for training and supporting youth and family members to be representatives at statewide policy enterprises including the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and the Models for Change Juvenile Justice Leadership Council as well as recruiting additional youth and family members to be advocates and educators.


We are excited to share with you the first edition of our Know Your Rights curriculum for Illinois, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

This curriculum provides participants with information about how to behave during interactions with law enforcement or other disciplinarians, the action steps necessary to navigate out of the juvenile justice system, and resources in Illinois to support further advocacy to defend the rights of youth. Intended for use by emerging educators and youth advocates such as young people themselves, youth development practitioners, teachers, social workers, community members, law students and others, this curriculum offers five different chapters to educate participants about the juvenile justice system in Illinois

The curriculum was designed for Illinois residents and is available to other jurisdictions, but will need to be adapted to reflect the local laws, policies and ordinances.

This curriculum was made possible by the remarkable collaboration between young people in conflict with the law, law students, educators, lawyers, artists, youth organizers and juvenile justice experts. We would like to thank Julie Biehl for her leadership, Elgin-Bokari T. Smith for his artwork, and Rachel Hoffman for her design. We thank the authors of the modules: Ethan Viets-Van Lear, Malcolm London, Megan Coss, Marlon English, Jamicka McClain, Vanessa Redmond, Christian Bufford, Reuben Bishop, Christopher Hervey, Mathilda de Dios, Jordan Blumenthal, Rebecca Glisan, Andrew Meerkins, Kaitlyn Quigley, Yashreeka Huq, Alberta Yan, Corrine Ferguson, Terrill Swift, and Karima Douglas.

In addition to thanking the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, we would also like to thank the numerous youth and community organizations tirelessly working to improve young peoples’ access to council and to end youth incarceration: the partnership for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, First Defense Legal Aid, Project NIA, Community Justice for Network for Youth of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Circles and Ciphers, the Center of Change, Fearless Leading by the Youth, Blocks Together, Free Write Jail Arts, Community Justice for Youth Institute and the Center for Wrongful Convictions of Youth.


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