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: 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: July 27-31

Good morning readers! It’s the last week in July, can you believe it? Is time flying by or is it just us? Let’s start your weekend off with a new OJD blog.

Raise the Age Tip of the Week

How Do I Know the State Will be Seeking the Gang Enhancement Against My Juvenile?

Under current law, there is no process for notice to the juvenile and the juvenile’s attorney that the state is seeking the gang enhancement.  As the juvenile’s attorney, you should consider the following:

  • Get a copy of the gang assessment from DJJ prior to adjudication
  • Argue that the notice of gang enhancement be presented pre-adjudication
  • Develop a theory of defense against client’s involvement in gang activity
  • Prepare for a hearing on the issue
  • Request a hearing, similar to an adjudicatory hearing
  • Request the court make findings on the record and appeal where  appropriate

A Bit of Housekeeping!

OJD is working from home for now and if you need to reach us for a case consultation, upcoming training, or have a question about court? Don’t forget you can email us for a faster response! Click here for links to our email addresses.

Upcoming Events

August 7, 2020 from 3:00-4:00 PMJen 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.

Thursday, August 13, 6:00-7:30 please join us for COVID-19: The State of Our Mental Health Part II. This session will focus on the mental health and issues younger adults and youth are facing due to this pandemic. Featuring Nikki Croteau-Johnson, MA, LPA, Clinical Program Director at NC Child Treatment Program and Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell, Clinical Associate Professor and Supervising Attorney for the Juvenile Law Clinic at NCCU. Please click here to register for the event. You will receive the Zoom link afterward registering.

Opportunity!

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.

THAT’S ALL FOR JULY! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Week in Review: June 8-12

Welcome to the start of your weekend, but of course we couldn’t leave without another week in review.

Tip of the Week

Before You Plea: Talk to your client about the impacts of an adjudication.  While not as public as adult criminal convictions, juvenile adjudications may impact the following: immigration status, educational placement, housing conditions, eligibility to play sports, placement on a sex offender registry (in N.C. or other states) and others.  Always consider the long-term consequences of what may first appear to be a short-term decision.

Training

Today is the last day of the 2020 SJDC Virtual Summit. There’s still time to register for another great topic: Where Do We Go From Here: Juvenile Defense Post COVID-19 with Moderator: Rob Mason and Panelists: Amy Borror, Kristen Rome, Eric Zogry. Click here for the registration link. CLE will be offered as well. This course starts at 2:00 PM

Upcoming Webinar, Thursday, June 25, 3:00PM: Best Practice Interviewing of Children in Sexual Abuse Cases. Dr. John Helminski is presenting and is a licensed psychologist who is board certified in forensic psychology. He acts as a consultant to attorneys in cases of child maltreatment with extensive experience conducting forensic and psychological assessments in child abuse cases. Please use this link to register.

While not a CLE course, OJD is starting our Juvenile Defender Forums. This will be an opportunity to meet your regional juvenile defender and network with other juvenile defense attorneys in your district. Keep a watch out for your email invite!

Lastly… Earlier this week, OJD released a statement regarding the recent protests and killing of George Floyd. You can read that here.

That will wrap up another great week at OJD. Thank you for stopping by and we’ll see you (virtually) soon!

Week in Review: June 1-5

Hey Readers! There are just a few reminders this week, and new tip on discovery. As always, we thank you so much for the work you do defending children.

TIP OF THE WEEK

The Juvenile Code has similar discovery rules to those followed in adult criminal court except that in juvenile court you are entitled to discovery in both felony and misdemeanor cases.  N.C.G.S. §7B-2300 provides for mandatory discovery upon the filing of a motion for discovery. Some jurisdictions are refusing to provide discovery for cases involving 16-17 year old youth who have petitions filed alleging an A-G offense and are awaiting indictment (as a refresher, upon a finding of probable cause or indictment, a youth who is 16 or 17 years old and charged with an A-G felony must be transferred to Superior Court).

There is no caveat to the language in the statute “upon motion of a juvenile alleged to be delinquent, the court SHALL order the petitioner…”. The statute does not exclude 16/17 year old youth with petitions for A-G felonies awaiting indictment or a probable cause hearing. It is very important that you file your motion for discovery as early as possible in your case so that if the state is refusing to provide discovery, you can file a motion to compel. In your argument to the court to compel discovery, be sure to argue that the plain language of the statute applies and unless, and until, an indictment is returned (or probable cause is found), your client is still under the jurisdiction of juvenile court and the juvenile code applies.

CLE, Anyone?

Just a reminder, the 2020 SJDC Virtual Summit Presentation #2 is TODAY at 2:00 (ET) – 3:30 (ET).

Topic? Virtual Reality: Representing Juveniles in Remote Courtroom Panelists: Gar Blume, Tim Curry, Angela Vigil Register here: https://emory.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ddRytFWkSGajsMfBXDHj

The last SJDC Virtual Summit Presentation will be June 12, 2020 from 2:00-3:30 PM. Another 1.5 of CLE hours :D.

Topic? Where Do We Go From Here: Juvenile Defense Post COVID-19

Moderator: Rob Mason; Panelists: Amy Borror, Kristen Rome, Eric Zogry. Here is the registration link: https://emory.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_lLBVyt80ROihqmb4id_EqQ

A Word Please,

OJD would also like to thank all of the defenders who make these webinars and CLE options possible. We know that they may not be the most enjoyable thing, sitting in front of the computer, but we are grateful that you attend and work hard to gain insight into juvenile defense. Keep a look out for more OJD CLE opportunities, have any course suggestions? Email LaTobia or Austine.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for checking in and we hope that your weekend is filled with grilled hot dogs and sunshine. See you next week!

Week in Review: April 20-24

Hello from Friday with OJD. Another work from home week means that OJD is rounding up resources and information for you, anything we can do to help. It always goes without saying but thank you so much for your dedication to continuing the good (juvenile justice) fight, even from your homes.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Complaints Received

We are focusing our Tips of the Week on stages of juvenile proceedings that disproportionately impact youth of color. This week we are considering complaints received:

Attorneys are appointed to cases once a complaint is received by juvenile justice, then filed as a complaint.  So generally attorneys can’t impact whether or not a complaint is received.  But attorneys can prevent the case from going to adjudication by:

  • Asking for a dismissal for various reasons, such as the victim no longer wishes to prosecute or the juvenile has already made amends through a mediation program or restitution.
  • Continue the case for an opportunity for the juvenile to participate in a program such as suggested above, or Teen Court if your jurisdiction has one.
  • After an admission, ask the court to informally defer prosecution without an adjudication.

Resources

  1. IDS recently released information on how PAC can file fee apps for teleconferencing and interim fee apps. Please visit ncids.org for more information.
  2. Legal Aid-ACS has synthesized the federal and state guidance that has come out to date and offer concrete tips and resources for advocating for students during school closures. You can get more information here. There are five documents: 
  3. On Friday, May 1st from 11 AM to 12 PM, Legal Aid-ACS is also hosting a Coronavirus-and-Education Know Your Rights training via Zoom and Facebook Live.  The ZOOM link is at: https://zoom.us/j/91168580266. This session will include overviews of recent guidance, along with lots of practical tips for advocating for students. For those who can’t attend the live session, a video recording will also be available on Legal Aid of NC’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LegalAidNC ) for families and advocates to access whenever they are available.

THANKS FOR READING!!

AS ALWAYS, HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND AND BE SAFE!!

Week in Review: Mar 30-Apr 3


Happy Friday Readers & Welcome to a brand new month. We know it may not feel like it, but it goes without saying how we appreciate our essential workers, in both private and public sectors. You are the heroes.

TIP OF THE WEEK!

This week’s tip of the week is highlighting a juvenile delinquency case that defenders need to be aware of when your client wants to testify. In re J.B. was decided in 2018. The State appealed the original Court of Appeals decision, but the N.C. Supreme Court denied a hearing. 

Briefly, the facts showed the juvenile chose to testify on his own behalf and incriminated himself (he admitted that he committed an assault on his teacher). The trial court did not inquire as to whether the juvenile understood his right against self-incrimination before he testified. The trial court asked the juvenile if he understood his rights after he testified, and the Court of Appeals determined that was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements under N.C.G.S. §7B-2405 and the error was not harmless.

So – if your client wants to testify, the court must inform the juvenile of his/her constitutional and statutory right against self-incrimination before s/he testifies!

In re J.B., 820 S.E.2d 369 (2018).

OUR NEW ASSISTANT JUVENILE DEFENDER TERRI JOHNSON!

Terri is a lifelong resident of Iredell County, North Carolina.  She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University in 2000.   She received her Juris Doctor degree from UNC Chapel Hill School of Law in 2003, and was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 2003.  Since 2003, she has been in private practice as an associate and partner in small firms and then as a solo practitioner.  Her practice areas included criminal law, family law and juvenile law and has focused on juvenile law as a contract attorney in delinquency court in both Iredell and Alexander counties.  She will continue to represent juveniles in Iredell and Alexander county as she joins the Juvenile Defender’s Office as an assistant defender for the Western District of North Carolina.

She currently resides in Statesville, North Carolina and enjoys spending time with her family, reading and photography.

WELCOME TERRI!

Resources

  • Yesterday, NJDC issued a statement on COVID-19 and the urgent need for the juvenile legal system to act. The statement is available on the Defender App. NJDC also released a new resource: Guidance to Juvenile Courts on Conducting Remote Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The resource is attached to this email and also available on NJDC’s website here
  • Save the Date! NJDC’s Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit will be in Kansas City, Missouri October 16-18, 2020.
  • NCCAY created a brief survey to share your current challenges and creative solutions with the DPS Juvenile Services Division and, in turn, contact you with what we have learned that may help you in your work. You can take the survey here.
  • JCPC has had to make the difficult decision to cancel our legislative conference this year.  Those that have already paid their registration will receive a refund. Please be sure to cancel your hotel reservations as well. 

HAVE A SAFE WEEKEND!

Week in Review: March 2-6

What a week for OJD! Started off smooth sailing and then 2 days at the UNC School of Government for the Intensive Juvenile Defender Training. But we’ll get to that later, first substance!

Appeals Tip of the Week: Courtesy of David Andrews, Office of the Appellate Defender

If the trial attorney does not file any motion to suppress, (or make an oral motion as allowed by §7B-2408.5(e)), the juvenile cannot raise a suppression issue on appeal. State v. Miller, 2018 N.C. LEXIS 425. If the juvenile made a confession or was subject to a search or seizure, you should strongly consider filing and litigating a suppression motion.

NEW COA OPINIONS!

There has been a new Court of Appeals opinion and we have that available to you on our website under Materials for Defenders > Case Summaries. Remember this page has many different summaries that can help you in your defense. Here’s a link to In The Matter of H.D.H. the most recent update.

2020 Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section Annual Meeting

The NCBA Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section are having their annual meeting and CLE on Thursday, May 4, 2020 at the NC Bar Center in Cary. The topic discuss Raise the Age in different aspects, such as: The Juvenile Court Counselors View, School to Prision Pipeline and will also have a Juvenile Justice Panel. Check-in begins at 8:30 AM and the CLE will end at 12:15. If you are interested, you can reach out to Eric for more information.

UPCOMING TRAINING!

Last but not least! Training Recap: 2020 Intensive Juvenile Defender Training at UNC SOG.

2 full days of learning at the UNC School of Government did not go unappreciated. Defenders learned topics ranging from Adolescent Behavior to Disposition Advocacy. Packed with workshops and discussions on how to advocate for our youth, UNC and OJD did a great job of bringing defenders out and lifting them up in the defense community. Take a look at some photos below.