The Proactive Model: How to Better Protect the Right to Special Education for Incarcerated Youth

Volume 98

John Bignotti

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees access to a specialized, appropriate public education for youth with disabilities in the United States. While progress has been made and this right to education extends to incarcerated youth as well as those outside the juvenile justice system, there is nonetheless a fundamental limitation on how this federal requirement is imposed in the carceral context: it is enforced through primarily reactive mechanisms. Lawsuits, state compliance regimes, and consent decrees can hold states and juvenile facilities accountable after systemic failures to comply with the IDEA; however, the inherent inconsistency and slow pace of this system call for a paradigm shift toward a more active federal government role in enforcing the right to special education in juvenile facilities. This paper will first explore the way scientific understandings of disability and the social context of disability inform this need for change, then provide a walkthrough of the current state of how the law has addressed this issue, and lastly identify how a more aggressive monitoring and compliance regime might improve access to education for youth with disabilities who are caught in the juvenile justice system

Full article available here.