Special Ed Service for California Jailed Youth
Being in trouble with the law only magnifies the often difficult task of identifying and serving students with disabilities. But under the Individuals with Disabilites Education Act (IDEA) all youths, even those who are incarcerated, are guaranteed a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).
Cuurrently, there are over 8,000 youths incarcerated in statewide detention centers under the supervision of the California Youth Authority (CYA). Of the youths incarcerated, 25 percent are receiving special education services.
In the past, youths with disabilities were not always identified and served by CYA. A 1989 class action complaint, Nick O v. Terhune, changed CYA's intake screening, staffing, and services.
The complaint was filed by a ward at the Northern Reception Center Clinic (NRCC) against the CYA director at that time. The complaint alleged that CYA violated the rights of students with disabilities under IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Civil Rights Act (Section 1983) and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In 1990, the parties entered into a stipulation in which CYA agreed to do the following:
"When the complain was filed, it basically jump-started the entire department. Prior to the complaint, each institution, except maybe the clinics, had one school psychologist and one resource specialist," said Teri Atad, NRCC principal.
In 1989, CYA began addressing the noncompliance issues. New special education positions were created so that each institution would have appropriately and adequately credentialed staff to address service and assessment. Special education staff has increased from fewer than 10 in 1989 to 87 in 1997.
"The staff has increased greatly so that each site has a full contingent of RSP, SPC, speech and language, school psychologists, teaching assistants and clerical support," said Emily Armond, CYA program specialist.
Armond and Atad both were at the forefront of the 1989 changes made for special education students incarcerated at CYA.
"We've seen the growth and the knowledge base that other noneducation staff have obtained in just understanding special education and the needs of kids with disabilities," Atad said.
Students with Disabilities In Correctional Facilities
as taken from the Jan/Feb 1997 issues of The Special EDge