Juvenile and Special Education Clinic Highlights
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
After completing a semester in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic, a UDC-DCSL student is prepared to practice in the area of special education law. Our primary objective is to obtain appropriate special education and related services for young people from indigent or low-income families in the District of Columbia. We tend to focus much of our energy working on behalf of young people who are in trouble and are facing incarceration in either the delinquency or the criminal system. Often, we are seeking and obtaining placements of these young people in private schools that provide a much higher level of academic and emotional support than they have received previously in public schools.
During the spring and fall semesters of 2007, students working with Professor Tulman in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic have maintained relatively large caseloads. Each law student has been responsible for pursuing special education rights for between four and eight children and young adults. Colleen Archer, who was in the clinic in the spring, continued to work on behalf of a client who is incarcerated in adult prison. Alea Harmon joined forces with Colleen for a contested hearing. At that hearing, Colleen and Alea will attempt to establish that both D.C. Public Schools and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are responsible for ensuring that the young man gets compensatory education for the special education and related services that he has not received both before and during his incarceration. Devin Baer prepared and filed – during the spring semester -- a due process hearing request for another client who is incarcerated in an adult prison, and Denise Greaves, during the fall semester, has represented the client in a hearing that has spanned three days. Ms. Greaves has prepared and presented a number of witnesses, including two expert witnesses. Emmanuel Agbara, working with Professor Tulman on behalf of yet another incarcerated client, filed a brief in the D.C. Circuit at the beginning of May in an effort to uphold the federal district judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of our client who is seeking enforcement of a consent order for private special education and related services at public expense. Mr. Agbara argued the case in the D.C. Circuit in September, and the three-judge panel precipitously, in October, overturned the trial judge’s ruling. We anticipate filing a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc.
Alyssa Patzoldt prepared preliminary injunction motions for two other clients, and we anticipate filing these PI motions in the federal District Court under a procedure in the Blackman-Jones class action case that will lead to hearings in front of a special master. Administrators and other personnel from D.C. Public Schools have failed to comply with administrative orders from hearing officers that granted significant relief to our clients. These preliminary injunction motions are aimed at enforcing these previous administrative orders. A client who is the subject of one of the two PI motions has successfully completed his probationary period under the Youth Rehabilitation Act, and we are therefore intending, in conjunction with the client’s criminal defense attorney, to pursue a "setting aside” of the client’s criminal conviction. Absent special education advocacy provided by clinic students for this client, he likely would not have been sentenced under the Youth Act and would not have been eligible for a clearing of his record. Veronica Morales, a spring ’07 student in the clinic, also prepared two Blackman-Jones preliminary injunction motions that we will use to enforce outstanding compensatory education orders for two young adults who have been incarcerated.
On behalf of a teenage client who is not in trouble with the law but who has essentially dropped out of school after many years of receiving virtually no appropriate services, Alterik Wilburn and Beth Zarkin obtained an order for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) for a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and a draft behavior intervention plan (BIP). The hearing officer ordered payment for special education experts from the graduate program at the University of Maryland’s Special Education Department to conduct the FBA and to prepare the draft BIP. We believe that this is the first time that anyone has used the provision in the law regarding independent evaluations to obtain an independent FBA and BIP. In light of recent Supreme Court case law rejecting, under the court’s interpretation of the special education statute, the shifting of expert costs for parents who prevail in special education hearings, the UDC-DCSL Clinic’s use of the independent evaluation provision to obtain an independent FBA and BIP could be a significant innovation. Alterik Wilburn, in work that completed the efforts of numerous students over a period of at least three years in five cases, also prevailed in a consolidated administrative hearing through the Petties class action in obtaining orders for payments for an expert evaluator.