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 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: May 25-29

We’re already back at the weekend AND greeting June on Sunday. Can you believe how time flies? Who would think when we’re all home, all the time. We hope your Memorial Day weekend was restful!

Tip of the Week – Building Trust

Especially during the era of Covid-19, innvesting 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!

IDS HAS A NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR!

From NC AOC Communications:

The North Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense Services has appointed Mary Pollard as the new executive director of the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS). Pollard’s legal career spans 27 years, most of which she spent working to protect the rights of indigent, incarcerated people. A Raleigh resident and mother of two, Pollard is a graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Law.

You can read the Press Release about Mary and her appointment here.

Resources

  1. UNC School of Government released a new blog post via On the Civil Side: Juvenile Justice Pandemic Lessons written by Jacquelyn Greene. You can click here to read this great blog.
  2. The next 2020 SJDC Virtual Summit presentation is next Friday, June 5th. Topic? Virtual Reality: Representing Juveniles in Remote Courtrooms 2:00 (ET) – 3:30 (ET) Panelists: Gar Blume, Tim Curry, Angela Vigil. Registration Link:  https://emory.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ddRytFWkSGajsMfBXDHjWA

WE HAVE SOME INTRODUCTIONS COMING TO YOU NEXT WEEK. CAN YOU GUESS WHO THEY ARE?

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!

Week in Review: Apr 27 – May 1

Welcome to May Readers! April went by a whole lot faster than March and we’re glad everyone is still safe and joining us for another OJD Week in Review.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Secure Custody

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

  • If possible, find out if your client is being detained before the initial secure custody hearing.  It’s critical to start the attorney-client relationship early and inform your client of their rights as well as what to expect at the hearing.
  • If you meet your client for the first time at the initial secure custody hearing, take a few minutes to introduce yourself, describe your role, and answer any questions about the hearing.
  • Come up with a plan for release:  reasonable conditions on your client, alternative placements, or other information that will help the court support a decision for release.
  • If your client is shackled, argue for the removal prior to court starting.  Shackling has an intense, lasting impact on your client and removal can be a good first step to developing confidence with your client. 
  • If your client is not released, make a plan to contact or visit them in detention to discuss next steps.  Make sure the parent/guardian has the contact information for the detention center as well to facilitate calls or visits.
  • If your client is released, make an appointment to meet before the next court date.  Review any conditions of release and encourage your client to contact you with any questions.

JOB OPPORTUNITY

IDS is seeking applicants for the Contracts Administrator and the position has been posted here:

https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/northcarolina/jobs/2768601/contracts-administrator

The position closes May 7 at 5pm. This is a great way to contribute to indigent defense in North Carolina for a detailed and energetic individual.

RESOURCES

  1. Resources from Racial Justice for Youth: A Toolkit for Defenders can help you advocate for your many detained clients who are youth of color:

Sign up to access the Toolkit’s defender-only resources.

2. SAVE THE DATE: THURSDAY, MAY 14 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM

COVID-19: Implications of the Pandemic within the Criminal Justice System

NC CRED presents an interactive round-table webinar with leading experts in the North Carolina public health and criminal justice systems.

3. Rewatch Strategies for Youth Webinar: Improving Law Enforcement/Youth Interactions in Times of Crisis

HOPE THE START OF YOUR MONTH AND WEEKEND ARE GREAT!

THANKS FOR READING! JOIN US NEXT FRIDAY!

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 16-20

Welcome to Friday, March 20. As we recognize this week was more difficult than most, OJD would like to thank everyone for their patience and dedication to making sure our youth are taken care of, still well represented and fought for. Defenders, you are superheroes.

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

Suppression motions and admissions – Give the prosecutor and the court notice of the juvenile’s intent to appeal the suppression order before the juvenile enters the admission AND enter notice of appeal from the dispositional order (not from the suppression order)! 

Court Updates

There have been a few court updates and directives by Chief Justice Beasley to help our community slow the spread of COVID-19. Read below for announcements from the North Carolina Judicial Branch and NCAOC Communications.

On March 13, she issued two emergency directivespostponing most cases in superior and district courts for 30 days and instructing local officials to take steps to limit the risk of exposure in courthouses.

On March 15, 2020, Chief Justice Beasley issued a memo providing guidance to local judges, clerks, and district attorneys as they worked to implement earlier directives. The memo allowed for the public and court personnel to practice social distancing and other preventative measures recommended by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control. 

On March 19, she announced an order extending filing deadlines and further curtailing other court processes. The order states that documents due to be filed from March 16 to April 17 will be deemed timely filed if received before the close of business on April 17, 2020, and that any actions required to be done during that time can also be postponed until April 17, 2020. 

If you have any questions regarding these orders, please contact your local clerk or visit the Juno website.

North Carolina Celebrates 50 Years of Public Defense

March 18 was declared Public Defender Day in North Carolina by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Governor Roy Cooper. The first public defender office opened in January, 1970 in Guilford County. Cumberland and Hoke counties opened offices in the summer that same year. 

OJD is an office full of public defenders and we are happy to help train, develop and support those who currently support our juvenile justice community, those who are just starting juvenile work, and those who will in the future. Here’s a couple shots of OJD in their Anniversary shirts (well, Eric and LaTobia).

Week in Review: Feb 24-28

If I told you that OJD had the busiest week, would you believe us? From grant meetings to trainings, the work never stops when OJD is making juvenile justice a bit better in North Carolina.

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

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2408.5 governs suppression motions in juvenile court. Under the statute, the suppression motion must include an affidavit. In adult cases, the failure to include an affidavit waives the suppression issue, even on appeal. State v. Holloway, 311 N.C. 573 (1984).

Upcoming Trainings

Remember! OJD is reporting and covering CLE fees.

Juvenile Enhancement Training Recap

First, OJD would like to thank all of our guest speakers who presented at the Juvenile Enhancement Training: Dr. Julianne Ludlam, Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell, Kim Howes, Terri Johnson, Eric Zogry, L. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter & Mary Stansell. We appreciate your time and effort to make this CLE possible and a success. A big thank you to Austine Long for organizing and scheduling this event, and one to LaTobia for getting the materials printed and arranged so nicely.

Topics covered included: Raise the Age, Adolescent Behavior, Collateral Consequences, Interviewing and Expunctions. It was a long but educational day. Subscribe to our blog for more training announcements. Take a look at some photos below!

Next up, UNC SOG Intensive. See you next week!