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Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic Highlights

Monday, September 15, 2008  
Posted by: The Advocate
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During the spring and summer of 2008, students in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic represented clients in special education matters. A significant number of these clients are students with special education needs who are detained or incarcerated in adult incarceration facilities. Although the federal special education law, applicable in every state and every school district in the country, requires the provision of special education services to eligible inmates of adult incarceration facilities, correctional and educational administrators uniformly ignore these rights. The problems regarding D.C. prisoners are particularly complex because, under the 1997 D.C. Revitalization Act, D.C. felony prisoners are now placed in Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) facilities across the country, and the FBOP is not providing special education services.

Following the mayoral takeover of the D.C. Public Schools, UDC-DCSL law students in the Juvenile and Special Education Clinic have engaged the new DCPS special education leadership team regarding the rights and needs of these incarcerated clients. On March 8 th , the clinic students and supervisors met with Dr. Richard Nyankori and other DCPS administrators. Clinic students Candice Ellison and Ashley Boyland, along with clinic alumna Alyssa Patzoldt, were particularly instrumental in organizing the agenda and ensuring clarity and consistency in the presentations at the meeting. Approximately ten of the clinic students presented the legal and factual context of their individual clients’ cases. The parties together worked to reach conceptual agreements concerning how to provide services to eligible students who are incarcerated in adult facilities.

Based on those initial presentations and conceptual agreements, the clinic students have continued to negotiate settlement agreements for individual clients, ensuring they receive the services to which they are entitled. For example, Colleen Archer and Eliza Bangit’s work led to a settlement of a case that the Clinic filed in federal district court for an inmate who was at the D.C. Jail awaiting placement in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Under that and other similar agreements negotiated by the Clinic, clients will receive, at DCPS’s expense, individualized services (e.g., tutoring and counseling) organized and monitored by a private case manager.

Students in the Clinic also worked on other projects. For example, Rosie Chase participated in meetings and efforts of D.C. attorneys and other advocates working on legislative proposals to remove young people under eighteen from the D.C. Jail. Trishia Hanna monitored and analyzed developments in the Blackman-Jones special education class action. Joe Fay researched, on behalf of a client, procedural and substantive issues relevant to a potential petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the summer, Matt Throop and Ashley Boyland continued to work in the clinic. Alyssa Patzoldt also worked part-time, while studying for the bar exam. With Professors Susan Sutler and Joe Tulman, these three summer employees provided representation for the Clinic’s dozens of clients.

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