Jed Oppenheim was raised in Southern California. It is Jed’s family and upbringing at labor rallies and protests that has taught him his commitment to justice and fed his passion for fighting for a fair and equitable society.
Prior to coming to Mississippi, Oppenheim worked in and around the United States for various youth-serving organizations. He has also lived and worked in South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda and Indonesia for numerous education and human rights organizations. In all his work, youth and child advocacy has been the string bringing ideas and action together.
Oppenheim was recently honored with an appointment to the Jackson Public School District (JPS) Board of Trustees, where he works to ensure all youth in the community have access to high-quality K-12 education. He also received the 2014 Humanitarian Award from Jackson State University’s Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO. Arriving at this point did not happen overnight.
Oppenheim recently completed five years as a Senior Advocate for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). For SPLC, he supported the investigation of numerous cases (current and past) fighting for or against local policies such as racially disproportionate discipline in multiple school districts around Mississippi. He has supported families and communities in efforts to provide federally mandated services for students with disabilities in Mississippi and the monitoring of on-going desegregation cases in various Mississippi school districts. He has also monitored juvenile detention facilities in Mississippi to ensure that youth in Mississippi are not mistreated, abused or denied access to proper rehabilitative services in confinement; and he worked with youth and their families to identify resources in the community to prop up efforts to provide fair and equitable services to young people no matter what community they are from. Through his work at SPLC, Jed helped to create, develop and disseminate a number of resources to families and communities throughout the state on topics such as school discipline, special education, school board advocacy, “zero-tolerance” policies, juvenile justice and mass incarceration.
He assisted in hundreds of Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings for students with disabilities in Mississippi school districts. In these meetings, he worked with parent/guardians and educators to ensure every child is receiving the proper services under the law.
Oppenheim helped sustain SPLC’s involvement in organizing or supporting events related to: the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides (2011), the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Medgar Evers (2013), 50th Anniversary of the Children’s March (2013), the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice—Day of Dignity at the Mississippi State Capitol, and the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer (2014).
He helped create and develop the Art, Poetry and Justice SLAM in Mississippi to commemorate Youth Justice Awareness Month every October. This important event attracts students from Jackson-area middle schools, high schools and colleges for a powerful evening of energy and creativity. He contributes to the Mississippi Hip Hop Summit every summer (which is spearheaded by the ACLU of Mississippi) and works often with the Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office, the Mississippi State Conference NAACP, and One Voice in their work around fighting for the rights of children and families in Mississippi. He serves as vice-chair of the high school committee of Alignment Jackson, which is working to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation in Jackson Public Schools. He is also on the board of Mississippi Association of Partners in Education and the Perico Institute for Youth Development and Entrepreneurship, Inc. (PRIYDE).