CLC attorneys recently filed an administrative complaint with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), asserting that youth incarcerated in the Franklin County Jail are not receiving the special education services they are entitled to under federal law. The complaint, filed April 3rd on behalf of two individual students, alleges that the Columbus City School District and one of its charter schools, the Focus Learning Academy, violated multiple provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA), a federal law which requires school districts to provide special education to students with disabilities located within the district. Although the complaint was filed on behalf of two students, it is applicable to similarly situated students currently detained at the Franklin County Jail. In addition, 94 school districts in Ohio serve as the district of residence for at least one county adult jail facility. The majority of responding districts reported to CLC staff they provide no special education to students in adult jails.
Youth with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. Even if a child with a disability is not in school, the school district of residence is responsible for ensuring that the child receives appropriate special education services. Youth who are eligible to be sent to adult court are generally taken from juvenile facilities and placed into adult jails or correction facilities to await the disposition of the case and any resulting sentence. Thus, the school district’s responsibility extends to youth placed in jails located within the district. The ODE is currently investigating the complaint. A Letter of Findings will be issued by July 27, 2012.