Special Education Students Isolated in Solitary Confinement in the Juvenile Justice System

I have often spoken about the sometimes improper treatment suffered by special education students when they encounter the juvenile justice system.  An ongoing case in California paints a rather horrific picture of some of the more extreme elements of the plight of such students.  G.F., et al., v. Contra Costa Cty, 3:13-cv-03667, (N.D. Cal.).

The case is a class action on behalf of special education students who are confined in solitary confinement like settings for up to 22 hours per day.  The cells are tiny without even room to exercise.  Tutors visit the children in their cells for only 5-30 minutes per day, and provide educational worksheets.

One child with serious mental health disabilities was confined in that environment for a full 60 days during a 120 day period.  Another young girl with bi-polar disorder was subject to such confinement for 100 days in the last year.

The County runs the detention center, and the state Department of Education runs a school within the center.  The County is seeking dismissal on the ground that it is not responsible for education; and the Dept of Ed seeks dismissal because it claims no responsibility for the County’s disciplinary decisions.  Cute, right?

The United States of America has intervened on behalf of the children, arguing in part that — “Public entities cannot avoid their ADA and IDEA obligations by contracting … or sharing them with, another entity, especially one that is unwilling or unable to meet those obligations…. [P]ublic entities are not relieved from providing special education and related services to eligible youth with disabilities based on disciplinary reasons…. [T]hat youth have been charged with or convicted of a crime does not diminish their substantive rights … provided by the IDEA.”   http://dralegal.org/sites/dralegal.org/files/casefiles/159dojstmntinterest.pdf

Sometimes the government gets it right.  I’ll be watching this case for results.

Please contact this office to obtain guidance if your child is faced with issues involving the juvenile justice system.

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