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Washington State: Settlement Requires Pierce County to Provide Educational Opportunities to Jailed Youths

The parties in a class-action lawsuit regarding the lack of educational services for juvenile offenders at Washington state’s Pierce County Jail (PCJ) reached a settlement that requires the Tacoma School District (District) to provide incarcerated youths with the opportunity to earn high school credits.

Two classes were specified in the lawsuit: the Youth Class, which includes all present and future PCJ detainees and those at Remann Hall who were transferred to PCJ during the school year, who were under eighteen on their first day of confinement and the District’s first day of the school year, and who had not yet graduated high school; and the Parent class, which consists of the parents of the Youth Class.

The settlement agreement requires PCJ and the District to implement an educational program that satisfies the legal requirements for providing academic courses to the Youth Class. The program is to commence and operate with the District’s regular school instructional calendar or as otherwise authorized by law.

Within 48 hours of booking a Youth Class member, PCJ must inform program staff of the potential eligible detainee. Within three days of notification, program staff must inquire of the juvenile as to whether participation in the educational program is desired. If desired, an initial assessment of the youth to implement a student learning plan must be conducted within two days. Educational services must begin within two days of the assessment.

The District is required to obtain the detainee’s educational records within four days of enrollment in the program. An initial refusal to enroll does not prohibit future enrollment, which can occur by the detainee sending a “kite” conveying his or her desire to participate in educational services.

A written learning plan must be created for each detainee participating in the program. The courses provided must be included in the common school curriculum and allow participants sufficient opportunity to pursue full or partial credit that counts towards the District’s high school graduation requirements. The District is required to provide sufficient staff, funding and materials to run the educational program at PCJ. If needed, detainees will receive special education courses.

Placement in segregation does not preclude juveniles from participating in the educational program unless their placement in segregation is related to the program. Members of the Parent Class have the right to provide input into the written learning plan and to review the participant’s educational records. A monitor will review the program over the first four full semesters, with the cost of the monitor paid by the defendants; the parties agreed to bear their own attorney’s fees and costs of the litigation.

The settlement agreement and consent decree were approved by the district court on March 29, 2010. See: J.W. v. Pierce County, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Wash.), Case No. 3:09-cv-05430-RJB-JW.

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Related legal case

J.W. v. Pierce County