Class Action Settlement for Jailed Special Education Students Approved by Federal Court

A lawsuit filed in December of 2009 on behalf of special education students in Los Angeles County Jail has been approved by U.S. District Court Judge Margaret M. Morrow after nearly six years of litigation. Final approval for a comprehensive settlement has been granted after the judge agreed that a number of public entities failed to provide special education services to eligible students at LACJ.

The lawsuit was filed by the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) and an international law firm headquartered in New York. The plaintiff named in the suit alleged that the jail knew about and did not dispute his eligibility for special education services, but no one took responsibility for providing them. The lawsuit claimed that this inaction was in violation of the Disabilities Education Act in addition to other state and federal laws.

The settlement has ensured that in the future, inmates will have access to the services they are entitled to in a timely manner. Comprehensive procedures will be put in place to ensure that eligible students are identified as they are transferred from juvenile facilities into the LACJ, and proper training will be provided to education personnel.

Equal access to education is a fundamental right. Incarcerated juveniles have the same rights as those on the outside – five hours per day of instruction to meet their individual learning needs. Unfortunately, the quality of education behind bars is notoriously low. This is especially problematic considering that a high proportion of inmates have diagnosed learning disabilities. Correctional facilities are failing in their primary task of “correction” by not providing inmates with the education they need to improve their lives.

According to a federal study, nearly 73 percent of youth with emotional disabilities who drop out of school are arrested within five years. Experts attribute the 700 percent growth in the prison population since 1970 to deep problems in the way children with special needs are educated.

This settlement is an important step towards breaking the cycle of recidivism, and will help ensure that students with disabilities receive the quality education they need to find gainful employment and a successful life upon their release from jail.

Is your child facing criminal charges? Let the Southern California criminal defense lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP help defend their rights and freedoms. For a free consultation, please contact our offices today by calling us toll-free at (800) 462-7160.