CLEVELAND—The ACLU of Ohio filed an individual and class-action administrative complaint with the Ohio Department of Education on behalf of students with disabilities who have been denied special education services while at the Cuyahoga Juvenile Detention Center (CCJDC). These individualized instruction services were supposed to be provided by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Warrensville Heights City School District and Education Alternatives-Bedford, according to ACLU Legal Director Freda Levenson.

“Students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education by federal and state laws and regulations,” Levenson said. “This is equally true while a student is detained at a juvenile detention center.”

According to the complaint, “J.C.,” who was a student in the Warrensville Heights City School District and at Education Alternative-Bedford, did not receive appropriate educational services consistent with her individualized education program (IEP) while she was detained at CCJDC for nearly 22 months. Currently, not all students with a disability receive proper special education services while detained at CCJCD.

The ACLU is calling for the ODE to appoint an independent team to investigate the policies and practices of these and other school districts required to provide special education and related services for youth housed at the CCJDC within the past two years. “It’s imperative to find out why this is happening and to correct it as soon as possible,” Levenson said. “It’s time for the Ohio Department of Education to intervene on behalf of these students. Youth who are held in detention need education as much as any other children. Locking them up without education and rehabilitation serves no one.”

Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act, the federal government provides funds to assist state and local educational agencies to ensure that every student with a disability receives a free and appropriate education to meet each one’s unique needs. Whether a student was expelled from school or is detained at a juvenile or adult correctional facility, the law mandates that each receives individualized instruction as well as corrective and rehabilitative services, such as counseling, social services, and physical and occupational therapies.