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Juvenile Justice and Youth with Disabilities

The New York Times pulled no punches in an Aug. 8 editorial published Aug. 8:

Many of America’s juvenile jails would be empty if the public schools obeyed federal law and provided disabled children with the special instruction that they need.

The editorial was based on a report from the Texas Youth Commission's office of the independent ombudsman, which recently released an evaluation of the educational services provided by the state juvenile corrections agency. From the ombudsman's report:

Although the law and regulations clearly establish the provisions of [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] for incarcerated youth, the implementation of IDEA in Texas Youth Commission facilities does not meet the standards set forth by federal and state laws and accompanying regulations.

The [Texas Youth Commission's] special education program limits both access and equity to mandated special education and related service. The current TYC special education program is out of compliance with the entitlements guaranteed under the IDEA. As a consequence, many of the students with disabilities incarcerated at TYC facilities do not receive services designed to meet his or her unique needs, nor are they adequately prepared for further education, employment, or independent living in accordance with the purpose of the IDEA.

The complete breakdown of special education services seems to be part of a failure to properly educate most juveniles in the criminal justice system in Texas, whether they have special needs or not, according to this article published last year in the Dallas Morning News.

The Texas Youth Commission ombudsman's full report on educational services provided to incarcerated youth, including general education students, can be found here.

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