Dec. 11, 2014 – The Education Law Center commends the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education on issuing new joint guidance on Correctional Education.
The guidance, released this week, not only encourages states to focus on prevention to reduce the number of children sent to juvenile correctional facilities, but also emphasizes the importance of providing high quality education to students while they are in those facilities.
“A key ingredient to success for a youth leaving a juvenile justice placement is the transition back to a traditional school setting,” said ELC’s Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow Ashley Sawyer. “But, because of the grossly inadequate education many receive while locked up, the rate of successful transition is low and the rate of drop-out is high.”
The guidance reminds facilities that the same civil rights laws that apply to traditional public schools apply to facilities providing educational services. And these protections extend to all students, including students with disabilities. In addition, the guidance makes clear that students in juvenile correctional facilities, who otherwise meet eligibility criteria, are eligible for federal need-based grants for post-secondary education.
“Our staff at ELC has long-advocated for children in juvenile correctional facilities, including children with disabilities, who are legally entitled to a full range of educational services,” said ELC Interim Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr. “Far too many children are sent to correctional facilities, and too often these children do not receive an appropriate education while in placement,” she said.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 44 other states and the District of Columbia have all reduced the number of children placed in juvenile correctional facilities, said Sawyer, who will work to ensure this new guidance is implemented in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania is, unfortunately, one of a few states that has actually increased the number of students placed in juvenile correctional facilities,” she said.