Court approves class action settlement involving students with disabilities in Los Angeles County Jail

COURT APPROVES CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT
INVOLVING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY JAIL

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 26, 2018

CONTACT
Anna Rivera, Managing Attorney, Disability Rights Legal Center: (213) 736-1031; anna.rivera@drlcenter.org
Samir L. Vora, Senior Counsel, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy: (424) 386-4595; svora@milbank.com

 

November 26, 2018 – Los Angeles, CA – On Friday, November 2, after nine years of litigation, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee granted final approval of a class action settlement with the California Department of Education in a case brought by named Plaintiff Michael Garcia against the California Department of Education, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Unified School District, Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education involving the alleged failure to provide special education services to students with disabilities in the Los Angeles County Jail.

Although named Plaintiff Michael Garcia had, from a young age, been receiving special education services, after his transfer from a juvenile hall to the Los Angeles County Jail, no special education services were provided, in violation of several state and federal laws. In fact, Mr. Garcia was never provided with any special education services while in jail and struggled instead to access a general education curriculum.

The case, Garcia v. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, et al., involves provisions of the California Education Code that require that special education services be provided to eligible students in Los Angeles County Jail. The class action settlement with the California Department of Education follows three distinct class action settlements with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Los Angeles County Office of Education that independently and collectively create coordinated systems to enforce the rights of students with disabilities to obtain special education services while in the Los Angeles County Jail. The settlement with the California Department of Education, the entity with oversight obligations over the delivery of special education services, helps to ensure that students with disabilities in jail who need special education receive the services to which they are entitled.

Under the settlement, the California Department of Education must, among other things, provide written guidance to all local education agencies (LEA) and special education local plan areas (SELPA) in the State of California, informing them about the obligation to provide special education services to eligible students in the Los Angeles County Jail and throughout California. The California Department of Education must also conduct discussions with personnel within the Special Education Division with responsibilities for complaint investigations and monitoring about the legal obligations of SELPAs and LEAs to provide special education and related services to students detained in county jails.

“We filed this lawsuit to make sure that students with disabilities continue to get special education while in the Los Angeles County,” said Maronel Barajas, Director of Litigation at Disability Rights Legal Center. “We hope that in doing so, all students are provided a chance at continuing their education, the benefits of which will last long after they have been released.”

Senior Counsel for Milbank, Samir Vora, explained that these systemic changes will ensure that “students with disabilities are taught in a manner that they are able to learn and not just left to languish without any means or hope of obtaining an appropriate education. Now, because of this settlement, these students stand a chance to be successful in life and contribute to society upon release.”

These improvements are a “huge step in the right direction towards ensuring that students with disabilities receive special education while in jail,” said Anna Rivera, Managing Attorney at Disability Rights Legal Center. “We hope that other jail facilities will embrace the model improvements . . . so that all students detained in jail facilities across the country obtain the special education services that they are entitled to under federal law.”

A case of first impression, this lawsuit will inform future decisions, helping to secure special educational services for eligible students in correctional facilities for years to come.

 

 

About Disability Rights Legal Center
Founded in 1975, Disability Rights Legal Center is the nation’s oldest national non-profit public interest cross-disability law center. Its mission is to champion the rights of people with disabilities through education, advocacy and litigation.  www.thedrlc.org

About Milbank Tweed, Hadley & McCloy
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy (Milbank) is a leading international law firm that has helped shape the legal landscape since its founding in New York City in 1866. Consistently ranked among the world’s top firms, Milbank’s transactional and litigation practices provide the scope, breadth and sophistication to meet the toughest legal problems facing the corporate and financial worlds.  www.milbank.com

 

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