Councilmember Grosso Introduces Legislation to Protect the Education Rights of Older Court-Involved Students with Disabilities  

Washington, D.C.—On October 16, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso introduced the Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2018 to establish a panel of special education attorneys at the DC Superior Court to represent students with special education needs who are involved in the criminal justice system. This is a critical step to improve access to education for older court-involved students with disabilities. 

In Washington, DC, students with special education needs have the right to a free appropriate public education through the semester in which they turn 22. Unfortunately, there are often significant systemic barriers to enforcing those rights for students ages 18-22. School Justice Project (SJP) has been advocating for the expansion of the use of court-appointed attorneys from family court to criminal court because students ages 18-22 are often unable to receive free special education legal services. SJP brought this issue to the attention of agency and advocacy colleagues during a cross-sector working group on improving education for students in DC care, convened by Councilmember Grosso earlier this year. At the end of the working group sessions, Councilmember Grosso’s office published a report outlining both legislative and policy recommendations with the goal of improving access to education for all young people in DC.

This fall, Councilmember Grosso introduced two of these key legislative recommendations. In September 2018, he introduced the Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act of 2018 to establish a standing coordinating committee focused on improving education for young people involved in the juvenile justice, criminal justice, and foster care systems in DC. This week, Councilmember Grosso introduced the Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2018 as the most recent effort to put the recommendations of the working group into practice. This legislation would ensure that older, court-involved students with disabilities have access to free special education legal services—a key component to ensuring that all students in DC can access a quality education.  

SJP supports this legislation and commends Councilmember Grosso for his leadership on improving education for court-involved students with disabilities. We look forward to working with our colleagues and clients to advance the education rights and opportunities of court-involved students with special education needs. 

 School Justice Project (SJP) is a special education legal services and advocacy organization serving older, court-involved students with disabilities in Washington, D.C. 

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