“It is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.”
— Brown v. Board of Education
Education is not a privilege – it’s a right. But in Georgia’s largest county jail, the right to an education is being systematically denied to students with disabilities.
That’s why earlier this month, Children’s Rights filed a lawsuit holding that the DeKalb County Jail in Atlanta is violating federal statutes that guarantee every child the opportunity to be educated.
Children’s Rights became aware of the lack of legally required special educational services in the DeKalb County Jail after months of research into what is believed to be a pervasive problem. An intensive investigation of Georgia’s practices found that youth between the ages of 17 and 21 were receiving no special education services.
US Federal law clearly spells out the essential right of every student, including incarcerated students, to a fair and appropriate education. Under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students are entitled to the specially designed instruction necessary to ensure their academic success. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in any program that receives federal funding, including correctional facilities.
The percentage of incarcerated youth with disabilities is far greater than the national average. Between 30% and 70% of young adults in detention qualify for special education services and accommodations – as compared to 14% of public school students in the general population.
The lawsuit calls on public education and county jail officials to work together to develop a plan for ensuring that special education services are provided to all eligible students.