Equip for Equality’s Special Education Clinic: Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline
Agenda • Information about Equip for Equality’s work • Common challenges in disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline and ideas for addressing those challenges • Examples of success stories
What does Equip for Equality (EFE) Do? Offers People with Disabilities and their families: • Information • Support • Resources • Legal services • Trainings
Special Education Helpline • Statewide helpline – any parent with a special ed concern/question in IL is welcome to call us for free legal advice • 866-543-7046 • Help students with disabilities secure a free appropriate public education • Provide self-advocacy assistance • Provide trainings to interested groups • Provide legal advocacy, in select cases
Equip for Equality’s Juvenile Justice Project • Began in 2006 as an Equal Justice Works Project sponsored by the Chicago Bar Foundation • Part of the Special Ed Clinic • EFE still provides legal services to the target population of the project
Equip for Equality • (1) Provide legal representation on special ed matters and discipline matters to students with disabilities who are involved in the Cook County Juvenile Court system • (2) Provide trainings to POs, PDs, judges, and community service organizations • (3) Provide fact sheets on special education law
Equip for Equality • The majority of the referrals come from probation officers • Some referrals from PDs and judges • Referrals from community agencies providing services to court-involved youth
Equip for Equality • Work with these students to improve IEPs that are not appropriate • Help students in court system find appropriate special education placements • Help students get evaluated for special education services • Provide legal representation to students at IEP meetings, mediations, due process hearings, expulsion hearings
Refusing re-enrollment in school • If a student with a disability is detained and then released from custody, schools will often tell the student that he cannot re-enroll and should enroll in an alternative school. • The student should not feel pressured to enroll in an alternative school. Alternative schools are schools of choice. The only time that a student with a disability can be forced to enroll in an alternative school (or else the student would have to remain at home) is if the student is expelled or the student has committed serious bodily injury, brought a weapon to school or a school function, or brought drugs to school or a school function and therefore receives a 45 school day placement in an IAES.
Possible Solutions • Student level: student should always request school policy that allows him/her to be excluded and should request to speak with the case manager • School level: Schools should have policies whereby the case manager is invited to every re-enrollment meeting for a student with a disability, or the case manager is at least consulted regarding enrollment issues • Systemic level: ISBE could issue a memorandum regarding the rights of students to re-enroll in school after leaving detention
Eric • Eric is a nineteen-year-old special education student who has a learning disability and emotional disorder. When Eric left Cook County Jail, his home school refused to re-enroll him and handed him a list of alternative schools, all of which had waiting lists. • Eric and his parent tried diligently to convince the attendance clerk to re-enroll him, but were unsuccessful. • EFE represented Eric, emailed his principal, and the next day the school enrolled him.
Lack of Appropriate Transition Planning • High schools are often very focused on the discipline issues at school for court-involved youth with disabilities and rarely focus on appropriate transition planning • Students 14.5 and older in Illinois must have a transition plan as part of their IEP
Possible Solutions • Student level: • Refer to DRS: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29736) • Request objective transition assessments • Push the school to create a realistic and specific transition plan • School level: • Train staff on transition assessments and plans • Form relationships with community service providers and businesses • Systemic level: • Provide funding on a state level to create more transition programs
Mary • Mary is a seventeen-year-old high school student with a mild intellectual disability and mental illness. Mary did not understand any of her academic work, had a completely inappropriate transition plan, and often was suspended for acting out in class. • The school called the police on Mary and she was arrested for a verbal altercation with the security guard. • EFE attended multiple IEP meetings on Mary’s behalf. The District conducted a thorough transition and vocational assessment of Mary, among other evaluations. The District drafted a detailed IEP, including an appropriate transition plan, with Mary’s input. Mary’s behavior radically improved because she was very interested in working to meet her transition goals.
Child Find • Duty to locate, identify and evaluate students with disabilities • Child does not need to be failing and may be advancing grade to grade • Includes social-emotional as well as academic concerns • Court-involved youth with disabilities often are experiencing behavioral issues at school and the school has a duty to evaluate them
Possible Solutions • Student level: Parents should always make a request for an evaluation in writing and should include consent in this letter • School level: • Staff training • Organized and consistent method of engaging in child find • Systemic level: • Changing the current stigma surrounding eligibility for special education services under certain eligibility categories
Juan • EFE is currently representing a 6th grade student who is repeating a grade for the third time. He failed the majority of his classes over the last few years and is consistently below standards on the ISAT. The school district has refused to evaluate Juan. • EFE drafted a demand letter and is negotiating with the school to ensure that a timely evaluation takes place. Should the student be found eligible for special education services, EFE will request that the student receive compensatory education services to make up for the delay in evaluating him.
Illegal Send Homes • Parents often get called from the school to “come pick up” a child with a disability due to a behavior incident • These absences are often marked as “unexcused absences” and are not marked as suspension days • This matters because a school has a limit on suspension days and if days are marked as unexcused absences and not suspension days, then procedural safeguards of IDEA limiting suspension do not kick into place
Possible Solutions Student level: • Always request incident report • Always ask whether student is suspended • Request IEP meeting • School level: • Willingness to conduct FBA/BIP and hold IEP meeting • Training of security and other staff • Systemic level: • Continued emphasis on importance of more restorative practices • Continued emphasis on the fact that sending a child home does not lead to a safer school environment
Lucas • EFE is currently representing a juvenile court-involved 8th grade student with an emotional disorder and cognitive impairment. • The school repeatedly calls the parent to pick the student up, saying he’s “out of control”. • EFE is negotiating to ensure that the school immediately stops this practice and instead conducts FBA/BIP and drafts a new IEP for the student.
Questions? Contact Rachel Shapiro Equip for Equality Rachel@equipforquality.org (312) 895-7308