J.S. v. Manheim Township School District

In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. ELC joined with ACLU Pennsylvania in filing an amicus brief in support of a student who was expelled for off-campus speech in J.S. v. Manheim Township School District. The brief stressed the importance of maintaining critical due process protections in PA school discipline proceedings, especially for Black girls, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students. This case will be argued on May 18, 2021.

Derrick et al. v. Glen Mills Schools et al.

Lawyers from Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and Dechert LLP filed a class action lawsuit April 11, 2019, in Philadelphia on behalf of hundreds of youth who were held at Glen Mills Schools, a residential facility located in Delaware County. This site, the oldest reform school in the country, housed as many as 1,000 boys from all over the country – and the world – at one time.

The suit maintains that youth housed at Glen Mills suffered at the hands of Glen Mills leadership and staff. Instead of receiving treatment and services, as required by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act, plaintiffs claim that they were subjected to extreme and sustained physical and psychological abuse and deprived of an education. The abuse had a particularly dire impact on Black youth – disproportionately sent to Glen Mills – as well as students with special education needs and disabilities, whose educational rights were ignored.

The defendants named are: Glen Mills Schools; Teresa D. Miller, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in her individual capacity; Theodore Dallas, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in his individual capacity; Cathy Utz, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families in her individual capacity; Pedro A. Rivera, Secretary of Education of the Pennsylvania Department of Education in his official capacity; Pennsylvania Department of Education; Chester County Intermediate Unit; Randy Ireson, former Executive Director of Glen Mills Schools; Andre Walker; Robert Taylor; Sean Doe; Chris Doe 1; Chris Doe 2; and John Does 1-20. Named plaintiffs include youth and families from Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., Luzerne County, Pa., and Monroe County, Pa.

The suit asserts that officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Chester County Intermediate Unit allowed Glen Mills’ education program to operate in the shadows without any oversight or monitoring to ensure the educational rights of students. Plaintiffs seek damages as well as other equitable relief for violations of their rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and state common law claims.

After an emergency removal order of all remaining children at the facility as well as the revocation of its licenses by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Glen Mills facility is currently empty; these actions followed groundbreaking investigative reporting by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Lisa Gartner.

Read our April 2019 press release here.

Read our complaint here.

Read our comprehensive brief here, filed Aug. 30, 2019, opposing multiple motions to dismiss.

Read our press release, issued Dec. 20, 2019, on the court’s opinion and order allowing nearly all our claims to move forward.

In January 2023, the Chester County Intermediate Unit agreed to a $3 million settlement of education claims in the case. Read our press release.

S.A. by H.O. v. Pittsburgh Public School District (PA Commonwealth Court, 2017)

This case affirms the limits of the weapons possession statute, commonly referred to as “Act 26.” The Court agreed with the Education Law Center’s attorneys who argued that Pennsylvania law limits the scope of the definition to objects that are similar or comparable to the expressly-listed weapons, including guns and knives. School districts will no longer be able to use Act 26 to discipline students for misbehavior unrelated to the possession of a weapon. This case is particularly poignant, given the national, state and local data showing that expulsions are disproportionally used for Black and brown students, even though there is no evidence that these differences are due to different types or rates of behavior than white students.

Read the news release, ELC’s Act 26 Factsheet, and our Act 26 Law Reform Alert and Analysis.

Key Court Documents:

Commonwealth Court Opinion (5/1/2017)

ELC’s Commonwealth Court Brief (2/15/2017)

Common Pleas Court Ruling (Memo andOrder of Court) (8/29/2016)

ELC’s Common Pleas Brief

ELC’s Common Pleas Motion for Supersedeas


Office of Civil Rights complaint against Pittsburgh Public Schools (2006)

This OCR complaint enforced the rights of English language learners to access the full range of public education programs and services and supports, including special education and appropriate school discipline protections, with appropriate translation and interpretation services for parents.

ELC Alternative Education Complaint to U.S. Dept. of Justice (August 2013)

This is an Education Law Center complaint filed on August 7, 2013 to the U.S. Department of Justice seeking an investigation into discriminatory placement of students in Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs.

The complaint cites four years worth of data showing a disproportionately high number of students with disabilities and African American students are removed from traditional public schools and sent to educationally inferior AEDY or similar alternative education programs, often in violation of federal laws.

In March 2019, the Department of Justice announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.