Seventeen-year-old Y.J. was an 11th grade special education student who was suspended from her high school in the San Lorenzo District in November 2009. Although Y.J. had a learning disability and an individualized education plan, the District found that her behavior was not a manifestation of her disability and initiated expulsion proceedings against her. Pending her expulsion hearing, Y.J. was placed in an alternative education program including four hours per week of individualized instruction. The District’s proposed post-expulsion placement was a continuation school that Y.J. did not want to attend due to educational and safety concerns. YELP students Jenna Sheldon-Sherman (’11) and Luke Weiger (’10) then began representing Y.J. in her expulsion and special education matters.
After conversations with the district’s attorney and director of student support services, Jenna and Luke were able to negotiate a suspended expulsion with the District that included an option to remain in the alternative education program, with an additional two hours of instruction per week. Jenna and Luke next confronted Y.J.’s special education needs. Although in the 11th grade, the student was severely credit-deficient and in jeopardy of not completing high school. She was also lacking direction for future career goals and opportunities. To help meet Y.J.’s education and future career-related needs, Jenna and Luke accompanied Y.J. to an individualized education plan (IEP) meeting where they clarified her high-school completion goals and discussed transition services. Y.J. was given the option of enrolling in career-related classes to provide her with the opportunity to accumulate additional credit towards graduation and the chance to get hands-on experience with a possible future vocation. As the case was closing, YELP learned that Y.J., her mother, and her educators noted that Y.J. was presently making more educational progress than she had in years.