Disabled California Juvenile Detainees Entitled to Special Education Services in Jail
by Mark Wilson
The California Supreme Court held on December 12, 2013 that state law requires disabled juvenile offenders to continue receiving special education services while incarcerated.
Under California Education Code § 56041, juveniles between 18 and 22 years old who suffer from learning disabilities, speech or language impairments are entitled to receive special education and related services.
Michael Garcia became eligible for special education services in the second grade, when he was identified as having learning deficiencies and speech and language impairments. Sometime after his sixteenth birthday, Garcia was arrested on felony charges and detained in juvenile hall. While there he received special education services through the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
When he turned eighteen, Garcia was transferred to the Los Angeles County Jail (LACJ) in June 2008, to await trial. Although he was still eligible for special education services, none were offered at the jail because no education agency took responsibility for providing those services.
The Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) and co-counsel Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP filed suit in federal court, challenging the jail’s failure to provide special education services to Garcia and other qualified juvenile detainees.
In May 2010 the district court held that under §56041, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was responsible for providing special education services to Garcia and other LACJ juvenile detainees. LAUSD appealed and the Ninth Circuit issued a stay, asking the California Supreme Court to decide whether § 56041 applies “to children who are incarcerated in county jails.” See: LAUSD v. Garcia, 669 F.3d 956 (9th Cir. 2012).
The Supreme Court agreed to decide the issue. “Although section 56041 does not by its terms specifically address county jail inmates,” the Court concluded that “the statutory language is broad enough to encompass special education programs for eligible county jail inmates between the ages of 18 and 22 years.” See: LAUSD v. Garcia, 58 Cal.4th 175, 314 P.3d 767 (Cal. 2013).
“With this ruling by the California Supreme Court, we can proceed with the class action to develop a systemic resolution that will ensure that all eligible students in LA County Jails are provided the special education and related services to which they are entitled under state and federal law,” said Milbank special counsel Delilah Vinzon.
“Michael is just one of many students with disabilities in a custodial setting who needs special education services – these services help Michael, and others like him, be successful in life and obtain gainful employment upon release,” added DRLC attorney Anna Rivera. “It’s through education that we break the cycle of recidivism.”
Following the state Supreme Court’s decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court on January 28, 2014, holding that “the Los Angeles Unified School District was responsible for providing special education services to Michael Garcia” while he was held at the county jail. See: LAUSD v. Garcia, 741 F.3d 922 (9th Cir. 2014).
Additional source: DRLC press release (Dec. 17, 2013)
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Related legal cases
LAUSD v. Garcia
|Cite||741 F.3d 922 (9th Cir. 2014)|
|Level||Court of Appeals|
|Appeals Court Edition||F.3d|
LAUSD v. Garcia
|Cite||58 Cal.4th 175, 314 P.3d 767 (Cal. 2013)|
|Level||State Supreme Court|