National Center for Youth Law



Dr. Jason Okonofua is an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His research program examines social-psychological processes that contribute to inequality. One context in which he has examined these processes is that of teacher-student relationships and race disparities in disciplinary action. His research emphasizes the on-going interplay between processes that originate among teachers (how stereotyping can influence discipline) and students (how apprehension to bias can incite misbehavior) to examine causes for disproportionate discipline according to race. The intersection of these processes, Dr. Okonofua hypothesizes, undermines teacher-student relationships over time, contributes to disproportionate discipline to racially stigmatized students, and ultimately feeds the “school-to-prison” pipeline. By investigating basic processes that contribute to misinterpreted and misguided disrespect among teachers and students, he aims to develop novel interventions that help racially stigmatized youth succeed in school and reduce their risk of discipline problems. On numerous occasions, he has served as a national expert to inform large-scale policy and given keynote addresses on the importance of science-based solutions to social issues such as the effects of bias and stigma. Dr. Okonofua earned his B. A. from Northwestern University and both his Master’s and Doctorate of Psychology at Stanford University.

His research has been published in top journals, including Psychological Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work has been funded by Google, the Tides Foundation, Character Lab, and the Bureau for Justice Statistics. It has been featured on a variety of popular media outlets, including National Public Radio, New York Times, MSNBC, Reuters, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Wall Street Journal, and Education Week.

Vice President

Mary Bissell is an attorney, child and family policy expert and founding partner of ChildFocus.  She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.   Mary has worked as a legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller and was formerly a Fellow at the New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute that brings new voices and ideas to America’s public discourse.  She also served as a senior staff attorney and lobbyist at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) where she focused on poverty, child welfare, substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health policy issues. Mary began her career as the Equal Justice Works/Crowell & Moring Fellow at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia where she started the nation’s first legal services program exclusively for grandparents and other relative caregivers.


Mona Tawatao is the Legal Director at the Equal Justice Society.

Mona was previously Senior Litigator at the Western Center on Law & Poverty with 28 years of legal services experience pursuing health, housing, land use and civil rights litigation and advocacy throughout California. She also served as a regional counsel for housing and land use for 12 years with Legal Services of Northern California where she co-founded its Race Equity Project.

She received her J.D. from UCLA School of Law and then clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. She is admitted to practice in the State of California, in the U.S. District Courts of the Central District, Eastern District, and Northern Districts of California, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

EJS honored Mona and William Kennedy with a Racial Equity Award at our 2008 annual gala. She also received the 2007 Heber-Smith Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association for her housing and race equity advocacy. She serves on the advisory board of the Shriver Center’s Racial Justice Institute.

Mona served on the EJS board of directors from July 2010 to January 2019, and was our board chair from 2015 to 2017. She has also been a frequent speaker at many of our conferences, including our Mind Science Conferences in Chicago in 2013 and Oakland in 2018, our Resilience of Racism Conference 2017, and served on our Civil Rights at 50 Steering Committee.


Brian C. Rocca is managing partner of the 135-lawyer office of Morgan Lewis & Bockius in San Francisco. He focuses on antitrust and complex commercial litigation. Brian has been recognized as a leading antitrust lawyer by Chambers USA each year since 2013 and was named by the Daily Journal as a “Top 40” lawyer under 40 in California in 2017. He has proudly served on NCYL’s Board since 2013.



Élida Bautista PhD is the Director of Inclusion and Diversity at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She sets school-wide strategy for diversity and equity-related programs focused on students and works to create a more inclusive school climate. Bautista earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan. Before beginning at UC Berkeley, Bautista spent 15 years developing social justice and diversity training programs at UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry. A bilingual Chicana born and raised in Chicago, Bautista moved to Ventura County when she was 13.


David E. Brown is a senior associate with the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group of the Annie E Casey Foundation, where he helps manage the foundation’s juvenile justice system reform work. Prior to joining the Casey Foundation, David served in executive level management positions within two District of Columbia youth serving agencies. Between 2005 and 2011, he was the associate director for the Office of Youth Programs at the Department of Employment Services (DOES) and the deputy director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). At DYRS, he was responsible for the residential and community-based programs and services for the nearly 1,000 committed and detained youth in the Department’s care and custody. Before joining DYRS, David served as executive director of the National Youth Employment Coalition and as a senior policy analyst with the National Governors’ Association, both located in Washington, DC. Earlier in his career, David benefited from a range of youth policy, administrative, and program experiences within both public and nonprofit youth-serving organizations at the state and local levels. He earned a Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College, which he attended as a National Urban Fellow.


Peter B. Edelman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and poverty law and is faculty director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, and worked closely with Senator Robert Kennedy. Professor Edelman served for a time as the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services in the administration of President Clinton.

Mr. Edelman’s current book is Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America, for which he received the 38th Annual RFK Book Award. Previously he wrote So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, and prior to that he wrote Searching for America’s Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope. His article in the Atlantic Monthly, entitled “The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done,” received the Harry Chapin Media Award.


Sophie Fanelli is the President of the Stuart Foundation where she is responsible for leading the foundation’s investments to advance whole child education in California and Washington State.  She oversees four grantmaking portfolios: School Finance & Accountability, Educator Leadership, Creativity & Arts Education, and Adolescent Learning. Sophie first joined the Stuart Foundation as Senior Program Officer for Education in October 2012.

Previously, she served as Director of Research & Policy at the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at UCLA where she oversaw public policy and legislative efforts focused on education equity and access, student and parent engagement, and school transformation.  She also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California where she concentrated on a range of social and racial justice issues including advancing education equity, LGBTQ issues, immigrants rights, and advocacy for the homeless.  Sophie was trained as a lawyer in France, Italy and at the University of Texas in Austin where she focused on criminal justice issues.


Denise Forte is interim CEO at The Education Trust. She holds more than two decades of experience in the federal legislative and executive branches advancing progressive education and family policy. Prior to Ed Trust, Denise was a senior fellow and director of public affairs for The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. She also spent 20 years in progressively senior congressional staff roles, most recently as the staff director for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (Minority). Denise also served in the Obama administration at the U.S. Department of Education, where she held the positions of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. She has also worked in the nonprofit leadership development space as the vice president for policy leadership at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), an organization supporting current and former teachers in public leadership. In each of these roles, Denise has worked to promote and advance policies that prioritize educational equity for those children who are historically underserved. Denise has a B.S. in Computer Science from Duke University, and a M.A. in Women’s Studies from the George Washington University. She resides in Washington, D.C. with her family.


Laura K. Lin is a litigator in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Ms. Lin’s practice encompasses a range of business litigation matters, including contractual disputes, antitrust litigation, and False Claims Act litigation. She also has experience in various internal corporate investigations, including multiple investigations involving purported legal ethics violations. Ms. Lin serves on the advisory board of OneJustice, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that supports more than 100 other legal nonprofit organizations including the National Center for Youth Law. Ms. Lin also volunteers with First Graduate, a San Francisco nonprofit aimed at helping students be the first person in their family to graduate from college, and various other community outreach programs focused on increasing access to educational and professional opportunities. Ms. Lin is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law. She clerked for Judge J. Michael Seabright of the U.S. District Court in Hawaii and Judge Richard C. Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.


Jack W. Londen is a partner in the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster LLP. For 38 years at that firm, Jack has combined commercial litigation with a range of pro bono work on impact cases and cases serving individuals and nonprofit organizations. He has led worldwide patent litigation, handled many commercial arbitration matters arising from merger and acquisition transactions, as well as shareholder derivative cases, securities litigation, and antitrust cases in federal and state courts. In pro bono cases, he defended NCYL against two challenges by the Legal Services Corporation and co-counseled with NCYL in its litigation to reform Nevada’s foster care system. He served as Co-Chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Chair of the California Commission on Access to Justice, President of the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library, and has held many positions on nonprofit boards. He has received awards for his public interest work from NCYL, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the State Bar of California, and other organizations.


Mary E. McCutcheon is a partner at the San Francisco law firm of Farella, Braun & Martel. Her private practice specializes in insurance issues. She has cocounselled several pro bono cases involving Medicaid benefits for low-income children with the National Center for Youth Law. She served as President of NCYL’s Board from 1997 to 2003.


Lori A. Schechter is executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for McKesson Corporation. She is responsible for overseeing McKesson’s general counsel organization, which consists of the law, public affairs, compliance and corporate secretarial functions for McKesson and its subsidiaries.

Schechter served as associate general counsel of McKesson from January 2012–June 2014. Previously, she was a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster where she represented clients in complex litigation and investigations and served for four years as chair of the 500-lawyer global litigation department.

Schechter was named by the National Law Journal as one of the “Top 50 Female Litigators in the Country.” She received her B.A. from Cornell University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School. After graduating from law school, Schechter clerked for United States District Judge Mark Wolf in the District of Massachusetts.

Schechter currently serves on the Board of the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts, and previously served on the Boards of Legal Aid at Work and the National Center for Youth Law.


Sandeep Solanki is Director, Litigation at Facebook, where he helps manage a global team responsible for civil litigation matters and also assists with consumer protection, privacy, and other regulatory matters. Before Facebook, Sandeep was a litigator at O’Melveny & Myers and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, and a research assistant at Urban Institute. Sandeep has been privileged to work on several cases pro bono since he was a student at the Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law.


Christopher Wu is Director of Government Relations at the National Center for State Courts. Previously, he was Senior Director on the Judicial Engagement Team at Casey Family Programs. Chris also served as Supervising Attorney at the California Judicial Council Center for Families, Children and the Courts and Executive Director of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care. Early in his legal career, he provided direct representation for child clients, and also served as Managing Attorney and Executive Director, during ten years at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco. Chris has a long history of engagement with NCYL beginning with a clerkship during law school.


Jesse Hahnel is Executive Director of the National Center for Youth Law. Jesse previously served as Founder and Director of FosterEd, a nationally recognized initiative that improves the educational outcomes of students in foster care. Jesse has served as a public school teacher in Washington DC and New York City, as Senior Analyst at the KIPP Foundation, and as an attorney representing at-risk children and youth. He is a recipient of the prestigious Skadden and Mind Trust fellowships. He is father to two wonderful children and husband to an amazing wife.