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Students Advocate for Victims of Domestic Violence

New Law

Under laws in dozens of cities in Ohio, a property can be designated as a nuisance if the police respond to multiple calls of domestic violence. According to advocates, this places victims at risk of eviction, as landlords are required to “abate” the nuisance or face fines.

A team of CSU students spent last semester working with local Northeast Ohio communities to address this issue and highlight the broader need for national policy reform. As part of that effort, law students Vanessa Hemminger and Calla Bonanno, along with nonprofit management major Marissa Pappas, successfully advocated for the City of Euclid to amend its nuisance law to exclude domestic violence as an offense.

Drawing on public records requests, the Fair Housing Act, and other sources, the students made a presentation to the Euclid Public Safety Committee arguing for an amendment to current law. The students’ proposal was officially adopted by the Euclid City Council in late December.

“A significant issue in addressing domestic violence is insuring that incidents are reported to the police,” notes Pappas. “By reforming nuisance ordinances we can reduce the chance that victims won’t call 911 because they are afraid of being evicted.”

The students’ project was part of a Policy Process course cross-listed between the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, taught by Joseph Mead, assistant professor at CSU. The course teaches about the policymaking process by putting students into the role of legislative or administrative advocates working to effect changes in local policy. Mead received a grant from CSU’s Office of Civic Engagement to assist in presenting the course. In addition, Pappas has received a Research Award from CSU’s Office of Research to further assess nuisance policies in additional communities throughout the state.

“I am so proud to see my students combine classroom learning with their passion for justice to make a difference in our community,” says Mead.