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CA: Home School District of Incarcerated Youth with Disabilities Required to Pay for Their Education

The California Supreme Court has ruled that the home school district of an incarcerated youth in need of special education services is obliged to bear the cost of that student's education while he is locked up in a county jail.

California law entitles an individual with a disability who is between 18 and 22 years of age and who has_ not yet earned a high school diploma to receive special education and related services, even if locked up in a county jail.

Michael Garcia, who is developmentally disabled, was 16 years old when he was arrested in 2006 for felony charges. Still incarcerated when he turned 18, he was transferred from juvenile hall to county jail. At the county jail, Garcia did not receive the education services he had been getting at juvenile hall.

A legal rights group then filed a complaint on behalf

of Garcia with the Special Education Division of the California Department of General Services, alleging that Garcia was being denied an appropriate public education as required by state and federal law. An administrative law judge dismissed Garcia's complaint in its entirety.

Soon thereafter, Garcia filed a second complaint with the ALJ, contending that L.A. Unified, the school district where Garcia's parents reside, was responsible for providing him an education. This time, the ALJ ruled in Garcia's favor and ordered L.A. Unified to provide Garcia with services. L.A. Unified complied with the ALJ's order, but filed suit in federal court to overturn his decision.

The case made its way to the Ninth Circuit, who, in turn, certified the question to the California Supreme Court. The sole question was: who is responsible for providing an education to incarcerated youths in need of special education services?

The court found that "the assignment of responsibility for providing special education to eligible county jail inmates between the ages of 18 and 22 years" shall be the school district where the parents of the student reside. The decision was unanimous, 7-0. See: Los Angeles Unified School District v. Garcia, No. S199639 (CA S.Ct. 12/12/2013); No. 10-55879 (9th Cir. 01/28//2014).

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Related legal case

Los Angeles Unified School District v. Garcia