Great News for Youth and Education Law Project

Although not active during the Fall 2013 quarter, the Youth and Education Law Project (“YELP”) nonetheless celebrated a great victory in a momentous ruling from the California Supreme Court, the benefits of which will extend to eligible children state-wide.

In August 2012, YELP submitted an amicus brief to the California Supreme Court on behalf of a statewide coalition of advocacy organizations that represent low-income and traditionally under-served families in special education matters under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).  The case, Los Angeles Unified School District v. Michael Garcia, concerned which local education agency should be held responsible for providing special education to eligible students detained in county jails under California law.  Although there has long been agreement that these students are entitled to receive special education services, the question of agency responsibility has been hotly contested.  Amici curiae argued that existing California laws provided a clear, concise, and bright-line rule that a student’s school district of residence remains responsible for providing and/or funding special education services for that student while he or she is detained in a county jail.  Amici curiae further urged the Court to reject the school district’s position that an unwritten exception to this general rule exists because of alleged unworkable results.

On December 12, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous landmark decision that, as amici had argued, the school district in which a student’s parent resides is responsible for providing special education services to that student while he or she is detained in a county jail pursuant to California Education Code section 56041.  This decision will have a huge impact across California as it is the first time that any court has clearly established a responsible public agency for providing and/or funding special education services to this particularly vulnerable and disenfranchised population of students.  In addition, now that this question of law has been settled, the corresponding class action that has been pending in the Central District Court since 2009 will be allowed to move forward.  The class action suit seeks to remedy the local school district’s longstanding failure to provide any services to any eligible student detained in Los Angeles County Jails.  YELP Clinical Supervising Attorney, Carly Munson, was counsel of record on both matters before joining YELP in 2010 and authored the coalition’s amicus brief.