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: 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 22-26

Another week down Readers! How are you feeling? Ready to get off, grab some ice cold lemonade and enjoy some front porch action? Us too, so let’s get down to business.

TIP OF THE WEEK!

District court is generally not a court of record, however juvenile delinquency court is a court of record.  That means that you are creating a record for use on appeal if that becomes necessary at the conclusion of your case.  In addition to making sure you preserve the record for appeal (more on that later), you may want to consider requesting an audio recording of a proceeding for other reasons.  For example, if you have a probable cause hearing, you may want to request the audio recording (and possibly have it transcribed) for use in the subsequent adjudicatory hearing.  The AOC form to request the audio recording of your hearing is AOC-G-115.

Webinars & Resources!

The North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System is hosting a webinar, Policing & Racial Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?, June 29 at 12:00 PM.

Topics include: police brutality, qualified immunity, the “defund the police” debate, and racial justice in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. Presenters include: Frank Baumgartner, Kami Chavis, Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis and Greear Webb. See more information and register here.

As we close out our LGBTQ+ Pride Week, we wanted to share some important resources:

LGBTQ Cultural Competency Links –

Please read more about Pride Week and the historic Stonewall Riots written by Anthony Benedetti, Chief Counsel, Committee for Public Counsel Services in Boston, MA.

Job Seeking Anyone?

  • NCPLS is searching for a new Executive Director. Applications will be accepted until June 30th. NCPLS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit law firm that provides people incarcerated by the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction with constitutionally required meaningful access to the courts. The Executive Director has primary responsibility for managing the organization’s day-to-day operations, directing the work of the staff, and serving as the primary spokesperson for the organization. Click here for description and application!
  • Strategies for Youth (SFY), a national nonprofit organization committed to improving police/youth interactions and reducing disproportionate minority contact, is seeking a new staff attorney. They are considering remote candidates. Please read more about this amazing opportunity here.

Alright Readers! That’s all for this week. We hope you have a great weekend and we will see you on our Twitter (@NCOJD) and Facebook (North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender) on Monday!!

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!