November 6, 2014

Report Alleges Mississippi’s Juvenile Justice System Fails Special Education Students

A new article in the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on education inequality, details accusations that the Mississippi juvenile justice system failed numerous special education students in its care and recent steps taken to improve the situation.

Under federal law, special education students are entitled to an Individual Education Program (IEP) to provide the extra educational services for each student’s needs. When these students serve time in juvenile facilities getting the proper education can be difficult.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed several civil suits, including this one, in Mississippi regarding facilities housing juveniles with special education needs, according to the article.

Several estimates indicate that about a third of the young people in Mississippi correctional facilities qualify for special education. According to the article, “[t]hese students tend already to be academically behind, and encounters with the justice system early on only increase the likelihood that they’ll drop out of school or end up incarcerated as adults.”

“Kids with special needs are not being served well,” the article quotes David Domenici, director of the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings.

Lawsuits by the SPLC and the federal government have led to the closure of some youth detention centers and resulted in new management at another facility. The remaining youth correction facility in the state recently completed a seven-year reform period as the result of a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. The facility was newly accredited in 2012 and the lawsuit has been dismissed.