From a Lawyer’s View: Resolution of complaints against Guilford and Vance County school systems

Resolution of complaints against Guilford and Vance County school systems means better services for incarcerated students with disabilities

By Tessa Hale, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina’s statewide education justice project, Advocates for Children’s Services.

The first time I visited my client at Vance County Jail, an adult facility, I asked him what he did to fill his time.  He told me that he did push-ups.  He was just 17 years old at that time.  As his education attorney, I knew that as a student who had long ago been identified as needing special education, he was entitled to an education provided by the local school district.  His mother had alerted us to the fact that as he sat in jail, he had not been receiving any educational services whatsoever.  At that time, this client’s case was one of three in our office in which the client had received no educational services while incarcerated in adult jail.  The other two had been incarcerated in Guilford County.  Our education team at Legal Aid decided to file two systemic state complaints on May 29, 2020 with the Department of Public Instruction.

We are proud to announce that the systemic state complaints Legal Aid of North Carolina filed against Guilford County Schools and Vance County Schools have recently been resolved.  The Guilford County Schools complaint was resolved via confidential agreement. The Vance County complaint was resolved following an investigation by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. More information, including links to documents, follows. 

Guilford County

Legal Aid was pleased with the opportunity to work with Guilford County Schools (GCS) to advance policies and procedures, some of which were already underway by the district, that will enable GCS to improve services for incarcerated students with disabilities by:

  • Reviewing and revising current procedures to require that all GCS students with disabilities incarcerated in any Guilford County jail receive appropriate special educational services;
  • Designating an employee to be responsible for ensuring legally compliant special educational services for students incarcerated in local jails for more than ten school days as well as continuity of educational services when the students exit from local jails;
  • Training special education staff regarding appropriate special educational services for incarcerated students; and
  • Conducting an internal audit for the 2019-2020 school year to determine whether special education services and related safeguards were properly afforded to GCS students with disabilities who were incarcerated in local jails for more than 10 school days and had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) during incarceration.

Learn more

Vance County

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s investigation into our complaint uncovered widespread violations of the rights of incarcerated students with disabilities in Vance County Schools (VCS). The department has mandated VCS to follow a corrective action plan, which includes:

  • Various trainings for staff, not only regarding incarcerated students but also concerning other general procedural requirements for students with disabilities;
  • Development of procedures to serve students incarcerated in the local jail;
  • Compensatory education for the named student in the complaint; and
  • Identification of eligible students who were incarcerated with the named complainant and did not receive appropriate services, for the purposes of providing them with compensatory education.

Learn more

The resolution of these complaints comes at a time when the population of youth incarcerated in adult jails has shrunk significantly. As a result of a new state law that went into effect on August 1, 2020, no more minors will be held in adult jail. Still, because the right to special education continues for students who are 18 to 21 and have not yet graduated, the developments in both the GCS and VCS resolutions will help ensure that eligible incarcerated students at all stages receive the special education services they are entitled to. Further, some students who may be identified through audits and who were improperly served before the law was passed will now be entitled to remedies.

Week in Review: Sept 14-18

Readers! Have we been the only ones looking forward to Friday? We can’t be. So let’s get your weekend started with a fresh blog and a couple slices of information pizza (yeah….we’d rather have a large NY Pepperoni too!)

Heads Up!

OJD is working from home and voicemail’s are checked every other day. For the fastest reply and communication, please send us an email. Email’s can be found HERE on our contact page, if you need. THANKS!

TIP OF THE WEEK – Brought to you by Raise the Age

Where Can I Find the Law on RTA?

If you want to see the Session Laws which include the Raise the Age changes, see:

Senate Bill 413: 2019 Session Amendments to the RTA Bill (Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act)

Senate Bill 257: The final bill budget for Session Law 2017; info pertaining to the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act can be found on pages 309-325

You can also check out the NC General Assembly website.  Look under “Bills and Laws,” then “General Statutes.”  You can search by citation or test, or you can look at Chapter 7B under the Table of Contents, and see the most recent changes to statute text on the right side of the statute.

HAVE YOU REGISTERED YET?

Friday September 25, 2020, 2:30-3:30 PM OJD is hosting “Defend Children From ICE.” Presented by Helen Parsonage, Board Certified Immigration Specialist and FREE to the first 35 DEFENDERS who register. Discussing the topic of children and immigration, strategies in your defense and other great information, You DON’T want to miss this training. Register herePLEASE PUT YOUR BAR NUMBER IN THE JOB FIELD BOX.

Symposium: The Roles of Prosecutor and Public Defender in Criminal Justice Reform

October 2, 2020 from 10:00AM-3:00PM (EST). This will be a virtual symposium presented by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC CRED) in collaboration with the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. The Keynote Speaker is Jonathan Rapping, Founder and President, Gideon’s Promise, Atlanta and will also feature presentations from prosecutors and defenders from across the country and of course, North Carolina. You can see a list of speakers and topics, by clicking HERE. To register, click HERE. Thank you!

A Bit of Information Pizza…

The School of Government has issued a new bulletin on Indigent Defense practice during COVID-19. The principal author Ian Mance, is the COVID-19 Resource Attorney in the public defense education group at UNC. Here is the link: https://www.sog.unc.edu/publications/bulletins/indigent-defense-attorneys-and-covid-19-faqs-about-practicing-during-pandemic

Click HERE for a link to an earlier bulletin by Ian about possible grounds for securing release of inmates during COVID-19

For additional resources, please see the COVID-19 Tool Kit on the School of Government Public Defense Education website.

As always, thanks for all that you do for our youth, communities and neighbors. Have a safe, socially distanced weekend, enjoy the upcoming Fall and we will see you next week.

Week in Review: Sept 7-11

Happy Friday Readers! Another week down in 2020 and we’re still all trying to figure it out. But no worries, OJD is here to help along the way. Before we get started, we take a moment to recognize the importance of today, and remember those lives lost and the heroes from September 11, 2001.

Tip of the Week – Prior Record Level Matters

If your client’s prior record places him/her in a position for the judge to enter a level 1 OR 2 dispositional level, ALWAYS argue for a level 1 disposition.  You can find a copy of the disposition chart here.  Make sure to check the final written order for accuracy.

Who could turn down free learning? CLE OFFER!

Friday September 25, 2020, 2:30-3:30 PM OJD is hosting “Defend Children From ICE.” Presented by Helen Parsonage, Board Certified Immigration Specialist and FREE to the first 35 DEFENDERS who register. Discussing the topic of children and immigration, strategies in your defense and other great information, You DON’T want to miss this training. Register herePLEASE PUT YOUR BAR NUMBER IN THE JOB FIELD BOX.

Symposium: The Roles of Prosecutor and Public Defender in Criminal Justice Reform

October 2, 2020 from 10:00AM-3:00PM (EST). This will be a virtual symposium presented by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC CRED) in collaboration with the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. The Keynote Speaker is Jonathan Rapping, Founder and President, Gideon’s Promise, Atlanta and will also feature presentations from prosecutors and defenders from across the country and of course, North Carolina. You can see a list of speakers and topics, by clicking HERE. To register, click HERE. Thank you!

“A Lawyer’s View” Needs an October Submission

LaTobia is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our Week in Review. Defenders and those in juvenile justice are welcome to write in on topics of their expertise: secure custody, mental health in juveniles, etc! We want to hear from you! There’s plenty more weeks left in the year! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

Week in Review: Aug 31-Sept 4

Hello September! Who else is ready for sweater weather? Fall is approaching and all we can think about is hot coffee and comfy socks, of course while we continue working :D.

Tip of the Week – What’s an Alford Plea?

A plea under State v. Alford is where an accused will admit to responsibility in court, not because they believe they are guilty, but because they believe it is in their best legal interest to do so.  While Alford is not explicitly afforded in the Juvenile Code, the Court of Appeals upheld an Alford plea, In re C.L. (2011).  Defenders should remember to explain to clients that an Alford plea has the same impacts and consequences as a standard admission.

Defenders, Register for our September CLE!

Friday September 25, 2020, 2:30-3:30 PM OJD is hosting “Defend Children From ICE.” Presented by Helen Parsonage, Board Certified Immigration Specialist and FREE to the first 35 DEFENDERS who register. Discussing the topic of children and immigration, strategies in your defense and other great information, you DON’T want to miss this training. Who could turn down free learning? Register herePLEASE PUT YOUR BAR NUMBER IN THE JOB FIELD BOX.

Racial Justice for Youth Toolkit

From the National Juvenile Defender Center, the “Racial Justice for Youth: A Toolkit for Defenders empowers juvenile defenders with the training, resources, and information to fight the over-policing, over-criminalization, and school exclusion of youth of color.

Through the Toolkit, we hope to inspire juvenile defenders to view racial justice advocacy as an integral and essential component of their youth advocacy.”

Please take a moment to sign up for the toolkit. Click here to sign up for a Racial Justice Defender Toolkit account for access to member-only resources that may not be available to the public. In doing so, you are helping to continuously advocate for racial justice throughout a youth’s case and help fight systemic racism in our courts.

HAVE A SAFE AND FUN (SOCIALLY-DISTANCED) LABOR DAY WEEKEND!

Week in Review: Aug 24-28

Happy Friday and the last weekend of August! Only 4 more months left in the year, how will you make them great?

TIP OF THE WEEK

Defenders – you have a statutory right to discovery in all of your juvenile cases (§7B-2300-2303).  Don’t be afraid to use it!  Some jurisdictions provide it without a motion, but it’s never bad practice to file your motion regardless.  You can find a sample discovery motion and order here on our website.

September CLE

Friday September 25, 2020, 2:30-3:30 PM OJD is hosting “Defend Children From ICE.” Presented by Helen Parsonage, Board Certified Immigration Specialist and FREE to the first 35 DEFENDERS who register. Discussing the topic of children and immigration, strategies in your defense and other great information, you DON’T want to miss this training. Who could turn down free learning? Register here. PLEASE PUT YOUR BAR NUMBER IN THE JOB FIELD BOX.

Save the Date!

Save October 2, 2020 from 10 am to 3 pm on your calendars for a symposium on The Roles of Prosecutor and Public Defender in Criminal Justice, Reform, sponsored by NC CRED. More information can be found via by clicking here.

Want to be featured on “A Lawyer’s View?”

LaTobia is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our Week in Review. Defenders and those in juvenile justice are welcome to write in on topics of their expertise: secure custody, mental health in juveniles, etc! We want to hear from you! There’s plenty more weeks left in the year! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

Week in Review: Aug 10-14

Another Friday in the books! Thanks for stopping by to read up on OJD’s week! And stay tuned next week for a brand new A Lawyer’s View installment!

First, an Announcement from AOC:

NCAOC’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) has provided legal advice and guidance to court officials around the State regarding remote juvenile hearings and confidentiality of exhibits. This is a brief FAQ regarding technology, sharing screens and other topics surrounding WebEx hearings in juvenile court. Please read the full document here. It is not intended and should not be interpreted as legal advice or guidance to parties to individual proceedings before the courts.

Tip of the Week

Suppression motions aren’t often used in the District Court setting (outside DWI cases), however juvenile court offers many opportunities for suppression.  The juvenile code outlines the procedure for filing a motion to suppress (§7B-2408.5) and it may be made either in writing before the adjudicatory hearing or orally during the hearing.  Consider whether or not your client’s statement or identifications may be subject to suppression.  Remember – “in custody” is an objective test!  The test is whether a “reasonable juvenile” in the position of the respondent would believe him/herself to be in custody OR that s/he had been deprived of freedom of action in some significant way, and is not based on the subjective intent of the interrogator or the perception of the person under questioning.  That means if your client is in the principal’s office and the SRO is standing in front of the door, would your client feel free to leave?

Thank You!

To everyone that joined our Covid-19: State of our Mental Health Part II webinar last night! Thank you to our speakers, Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell, Jesse Edmonds & Nikki Croteau-Johnson you three did wonderful, giving great insight into our youth in and out of the juvenile system and how best to serve them during these times. From discussions about school, detention, ways to get active and to monitor our children’s mental health, we discussed it all. A bit of everyone joined too, from students to law professionals to the general public. Such great questions and comments! Big takeaway: It takes a village to raise a child.

Don’t Forget!

OJD is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our new series: A Lawyer’s View. Defenders and those in juvenile justice are welcome to write in on topics of their expertise: secure custody, mental health in juveniles, etc! We want to hear from you! There’s plenty more weeks left in the year! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

Week in Review: August 3-7

Happy Friday Readers! As the meme above says, another good week done! Thank you for all that you do in these times with our youth and in your daily lives. We know things are a bit crazy and harder than normal for everyone. You rock!

TIP OF THE WEEK

Transcript of Admission Tips 

Filling out a transcript of admission on any admission of a new offense is important for several reasons.  It memorializes the record of admission in writing if subject to an appeal.  Reviewing the transcript with your client helps your client better understand the admission and the rights s/he is asserting or waiving.  Make sure you complete the transcript with your client present and do so in a confidential space. Consider making a copy of the transcript to keep at the attorney table to help your client answer questions.  Stand with your client when the court asks your client the listed questions and be prepared to confer with your client if any issues arise.

Webinar?

Continuing with our collaboration with the School of Law at NCCU and the Virtual Justice Project, Part II of our Covid-19: The State of Our Mental Health webinar will be Thursday, August 13 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM. This is not a CLE.

Our guest speakers are Nikki Croteau-Johnson, MA, LP, HSP-PA from the NC Child Treatment Program in Durham, NC and Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell, Clinical Associate Professor and Supervising Attorney of the Juvenile Law Clinic at NCCU, and Jesse Edmonds, a Juvenile Court Counselor with NC DPS.

From discussions about the new school model, missing out on graduation to the shaking of their everyday lives, this webinar is intended on how to best adapt to our youth’s new path into growing up in a pandemic. Click here to register.

CLE REMINDER!

TODAY! from 3:00-4:00 PM. 

Jen Story, Tessa Hale, Mary Stansell are presenting a new CLE: Making the Connection- Education Advocacy and Juvenile Defense. 

Come to this session to learn the basics of special education laws and school-based intervention plans; how to issue-spot when students’ unaddressed needs in schools are exacerbating their behaviors; and how to incorporate this knowledge into your advocacy in a way that sets juveniles up for long-term success.  You can register for this CLE here and will be sent the meeting link information afterwards

This CLE is DEFENDER ONLY! OJD is covering CLE costs for the first 30 registrants and CLE is pending.

That’s all we have for this week!

Week in Review: June 15-19

Here’s to another Friday in the books! Couple announcements and a bit of history today, and of course your weekly tip. Thanks for all that you continue to do.

Tip of the Week – Building Trust

Investing time is the single most important strategy for building trust and rapport with your client.  You need to listen and ask questions without judgment, and explain why you need to ask certain questions.  Allow your client the opportunity, and encourage him/her to ask questions as well.  Be sure to explain to your client how your role is different from other adults s/he has interacted with (i.e. attorney/client privilege).  And most importantly – never make a promise you can’t keep.  If you say you’re going to do something – do it!

Ahem! Announcements!

Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, also known as Freedom Day. June 19th  is recognized as the African American Emancipation Day after news delivered by Union soldiers in 1865, led by Major General Gordon Granger, announced in Galveston, Texas with news that the last of the enslaved were now free. This occurred TWO YEARS after President Lincoln’s Proclamation.

Today marks 155 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was revealed in Texas and many companies and brands have made this day a paid holiday, acknowledging the struggle and victories of the African-American culture. Other organizations will work to make today a day of learning, promoting knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and self-development. Happy Juneteenth.

NEXT WEEK

OJD will be celebrating and providing educational insight to the LGBTQ+ community as it is the last week of Pride Month. We will be sharing insightful tips on how to address, speak, and represent your LGBTQ+ clients in delinquency courts, as well as a little bit of history. Stay tuned!

And Finally…

CHEERS TO THE WEEKEND!

Week in Review: May 11-15

Another week down, many more more to go. Thank you for coming back to read another week in review with OJD. There’s a few webinars we want to tell you about and as always, a Tip of the Week. Short and sweet so you can go grill some hot dogs in this nice weather (save a burnt one for LaTobia) 😀

TIP OF THE WEEK

When Should I Receive the Disposition Report?

You should try to receive the disposition report prior to the dispositional hearing to review with your client.  If possible, try to get a copy of the report at least several days prior to the hearing.  While there is no statutory authority compelling the receipt from the intake counselor, there are local rules which suggest time periods.

Congratulations are in order to LaToya Powell who was named this years CHILDREN’S CHAMPION by the NC Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section at their annual meeting yesterday!!!!!!!! Congratulations LaToya and thank you for all your hard work defending and protecting children!!

  • Our first DEFENDER ONLY Online CLE Webinar: Video Conference Secure Custody Hearings, is next Friday, May 22 at 11:00 AM. It is a FREE CLE to the first 75 DEFENDERS. To register for this training, click HERE. Place your Job Title & Bar Number in: Job Title to ensure proper CLE credit.  Also include your organization in the Company field.
  • May 15 at 1:00 pm, Dr. Maureen Reardon of @NC_IDS and the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office is hosting a 1 Hour Online CLE on Working with Mental Health Experts: Psychological Testing in Criminal Cases. Register here for this great webinar!
  • May 18, 2020 at 12:00 PM join Strategies for Helping Youth Cope During Uncertain Times Webinar with Ruby Brown-Herring, from the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services. You can register here for this webinar.
  • OJJDP is hosting a webinar May 21, 1:00 to 2:15 PM, on Mentoring and Supporting Young People’s Mental Health and Well-being. It will focused on strategies and resources to support mental health for juveniles. Register here.

That sums up this week, have a great (and safe!) weekend! – OJD

Week in Review: May 4-8

Thanks for stopping by for another Week in Review! Plenty of meetings and calls this week as NC gears up to reopen our courts and we’re so ready to share new ways to pursue juvenile justice in this new time. Remember, if you have any questions or suggestions, we are more than willing to help.

Also! OJD is looking to develop and provide webinar training to our Juvenile Defenders throughout this pandemic. We are currently requesting topics and information you would like to have discussed. Please email Austine Long with your thoughts. Thank you.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Youth Development Center commitment

We are focusing our Tips of the Week on stages of juvenile proceedings that disproportionately impact youth of color. This week we are considering commitment to a youth development center (YDC):

  • Whenever disposition is being entered for your client, always argue for the lowest level of disposition.  A small number of points, or a violation of probation, can quickly send your client to YDC.
  • Consult with the court counselor and the ADA on their recommendations to the court.  If possible, negotiate a lesser disposition than YDC commitment before court.
  • Meet with your client before the dispositional hearing and provide the court with an alternative disposition plan that considers the safety of the community and your client’s needs.
  • Provide in court testimony from supportive community members.
  • Consider offering the court recent recidivism studies which indicate that commitment to YDC is factor for increased recidivism in juveniles. 

Resources

  • May 14, 2020 at 11 AM: NC CRED presents an interactive round-table webinar with leading experts in the North Carolina public health and criminal justice systems. The webinar will explore current conditions in North Carolina and discuss actionable steps to help mitigate the adverse effects on people in North Carolina who is a webinar about preparing and conducting video conference secure custody hearings. The speaker will discuss best practices, confidentiality and other important issues concerning video conferencing hearings.are involved with the criminal justice system. To register for this webinar, click HERE.
  • From the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Juvenile Justice Network member call, “COVID-19: The Heightened Dangers of Confinement” here are some resources they discussed.
  1. Distinction between medical isolation and solitary (AMEND at UCSF)
  2. A list of disability specific issues/resources (NDRN)
  3. Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings
  4. Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators
  5. National Commission on Correctional Healthcare
  6. National Partnership on Juvenile Service
  7. Stop Solitary for Kids
  8. Tolerance.org

Thanks for stopping by!