The Fort Worth Weekly has a cover story about the growing backlash against the criminalization of truancy in Texas. NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris told the Weekly “It’s a system that is designed for the benefit of the bureaucracy that runs it, not to help kids do better at school.”
NCYL together with Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas has filed a Federal civil rights administrative complaint against the Dallas truancy courts and four Dallas area school districts which contends that the truancy courts violate students’ constitutional and statutory rights. The complaint also alleges that Dallas, Mesquite, Garland, and Richardson school districts (all in Dallas County) employ “inconsistent and inflexible” attendance policies and practices that violate the civil rights of students with disabilities and limited English proficiency. Dallas ISD’s alleged violations of the civil rights of pregnant students in truancy proceedings are also detailed in the complaint.
The use of misdemeanors to criminalize student conduct is also the subject of a Federal civil rights administrative complaint brought by NCYL against another Texas school district. That complaint focuses on the Bryan Independent School District's use of school resource officers to issue criminal tickets for a range of minor student misbehavior and its unlawful impact on African-American students, who are "cited" at a rate four times that of other students. Students who receive these tickets are required to attend court dates in adult courts, often missing school to attend court on multiple days.
The San Jose Mercury News is running a powerful investigative series about the over use of psych drugs on California children in foster care. NCYL’s Bill Grimm is a member of the State’s expert panel charged with developing protocols to monitor and regulate the use of psychotropic drugs in foster care. In the article he discusses California’s failure to make progress on this critical issue.
For several year’s NCYL has campaigned to end the inappropriate and harmful sedation of tens of thousands of foster children. You can learn more and get involved at NCYL’s PsychDrugs Action Campaign.
Court Orders Washington State to Finish Foster Care Reforms in Braam v. State
In a significant decision this week that is good news for foster youth in the State of Washington, Judge Charles Snyder of the Whatcom County Superior Court ruled that the state must finish the job of reforming the foster care system as it promised to do in a 2011 settlement agreement in Braam v. State.
Noting that the “essence” of the class-action lawsuit was about “inappropriate and insufficient levels of care and services,” the court rejected the state’s request to significantly weaken the settlement agreement.
The state will be required to tell the court how it plans to comply, and the court will review progress in 12 to 14 months.
The East Bay Express' cover story this week featured NCYL Attorney Kate Walker, along with other youth advocates, talking about commercially sexually exploited children, how they are revictimized by the juvenile justice system, and how new legislation in California could be the first step in changing the situation.
In the midst of a U.S. Department of Education (DoED) investigation of racial discrimination and physical and verbal abuse against Native American students, the superintendent of Loleta Union Elementary School District, a small district in Northern California, announced that she will resign. The investigation began in response to complaints by NCYL, the ACLU of Northern California, and California Indian Legal Services. The investigation by the U.S. DoED's Office of Civil Rights remains ongoing.
California Governor Jerry Brown, signed new legislation into law that will provide $5 million in the 2014-15 budget and $14 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2015-16 to fund prevention, intervention, and other services for children who are sexually trafficked and to provide training to child welfare and foster caregivers. By signing SB 855, the governor is creating a Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program, to be administered by the State Department of Social Services.In addition, the law will allow for a child who is sexually trafficked and whose parent or guardian is unable to protect her, to be served through the dependency system rather than the juvenile justice system.
California Supreme Court Decision In Step with Miller v. Alabama
The California Supreme Court put an end to California’s sentencing scheme that tipped the scales in favor of a life sentence without parole for certain crimes committed by 16 and 17 year olds.In overturning this two-decade old sentencing “presumption,” it followed the guidance of the United States Supreme Court in its 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, which banned mandatory sentences of life without parole for crimes committed by juveniles. The California Supreme Court further said that sentencing courts must consider the “distinctive attributes of youth” and how they weigh against imposing harsh sentences on juvenile offenders. This decision is part of a broader national trend of turning away from imposing the harshest sentences on juvenile offenders given their ongoing development and capacity for change.
RTI Releases Year One Report on FosterEd: Santa Cruz County
RTI International, an independent research nonprofit, this week released an evaluation of FosterEd’s first year of work in Santa Cruz, Calif. “The launch and first year of implementation of FosterEd Santa Cruz has been remarkably successful,” according to the RTI evaluation. “Rarely do complex initiatives involving many partners and multiple system changes achieve so much so early.” FosterEd is an initiative of NCYL that works to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of foster youth. FosterEd's work in California is part of the Education Equals Partnership, a statewide effort dedicated to improving educational outcomes for students from foster care, starting with preschool and extending across the entire education continuum.
In this All Things Considered interview with NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris, Michael talks about the promise and the failure of zero tolerance policies in schools and how implicit and oftentimes unconscious bias can have profound negative consequences for students.
This excellent article in NationSwell (an online publication focused on American renewal) delves into the work being done by NCYL's FosterEd initiative. The article quotes FosterEd's Director, Jesse Hahnel, "The state has a unique moral and legal responsibility to these children. Improving the educational outcomes of foster children cannot be accomplished by education, child welfare or judicial agencies working by themselves. These agencies must take joint responsibility."
In addition to the considerable media attention garnered by the launch of FosterEd: Arizona, the staff received a glowing congratulations from a wide variety of supporters, including this letter from Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
In this KTVU TV 2 news segment that aired Feb. 5, 2014, NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm provides perspective and commentary on the legal aspects of Napa County Child Protective Services' decision to withhold information in the recent death of three-year-old Kayleigh Slusher.
Fighting to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a priority at NCYL, and we applaud the proclamation by President Barack Obama and the resolution by California Governor Jerry Brown aimed at renewing commitment to the cause of fighting slavery and human trafficking, and encouraging agencies, organizations, and individuals to become involved in that effort.
National Center for Youth Law, Pima County Launch Project to Help Foster Children Succeed in School
The National Center for Youth Law, together with Pima County education, child welfare, behavioral health and judicial agencies, launched FosterEd: Arizona’s Pima County pilot project today. The project, part of the national FosterEd Initiative, will improve the educational outcomes of thousands of school-age foster children living in Pima County and serve as the model for a statewide program that will support the educational success of all Arizona foster children.
Systemic Overhaul of Medicaid for Youth with Mental Illness: Settlement for statewide class action approved by court today
Earlier today (Dec. 19, 2013), in the case T.R. et al. v. Quigley et al., a class action lawsuit calling for reform of Washington’s children’s mental health system, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly approved an agreement obligating Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services and Health Care Authority to develop and provide intensive, individualized mental health services to Medicaid-eligible young people in their homes or communities.
Attorneys from the National Center for Youth Law, the ACLU of Northern California, and California Indian Legal Services filed lawsuits charging that school officials in the Humboldt County towns of Loleta and Eureka, home to some of the state’s largest Native American communities, intentionally discriminate against Native American and Black students, and students with disabilities, levying disproportionate levels of discipline for minor infractions and forcing them out of mainstream schools at disproportionate rates.
On September 27, 2013, the U.S. District Court preliminarily approved a proposed settlement agreement in T.R. v. Quigley regarding in-home and community-based services to children in Washington who receive Medicaid.
Compelling expose in the Huffington Post on the horrific conditions and abuses in for-profit juvenile justice facilities in Florida and how authorities often look the other way. The article also talks about the rise in for-profit juvenile facilities nationwide.
Governor Brown Signs NCYL Co-Sponsored Bill to Close Insurance Loophole
Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law California Senate Bill 138, closing a longstanding loophole in insurance confidentiality law. Co-sponsored by the National Center for Youth Law, SB 138 will require that insurers take steps to protect the confidentiality of an insured individual's medical information for purposes of sensitive services or if disclosure will endanger an individual.
Governor Brown issued the following statement upon signing: “While extreme radicals in Washington shut down our government, here in California we’re taking action to extend decent health care to millions of families."
Look for an in-depth analysis of 138 in the next issue of Youth Law News.
National Academies Release Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Report and Video
The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council recently released Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States. The report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) examines current approaches to addressing commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children, identifies causes and consequences for victims and offenders, and highlights recommendations to prevent, identify, and respond to these crimes. An online video accompanied the public release of the report.
SB 138 Poised to Close Insurance Privacy Loophole
A longstanding loophole in insurance confidentiality law means individuals enrolled on another person's health insurance can have their private health information disclosed to the insurance policy holder without their consent or knowledge. This leads to foregone and delayed care, particularly when insured dependents need "sensitive" services such as mental or reproductive health care or services in response to assault or abuse. The problem impacts adolescents as well as young adults under 26 enrolled on a parent's health plan and adults insured on a partner's health insurance policy.
California Senate Bill 138, co-sponsored by NCYL, will close this confidentiality loophole and ensure all people feel safe using their insurance to obtain necessary health care. SB 138 just cleared the California legislature and now awaits signature by California Governor Jerry Brown. Check out the video below put together by Choice USA.
A joint brief published this week by the National Center for Youth Law and the California Department of Education, summarizes a collaborative project that brought together local leaders, policy experts, and stakeholders in California who are focused on improving the educational outcomes of foster youth in the state. The goal of the collaboration was to identify types of data needed to support the educational success of students in foster care; the types of people who could support educational success if given access to such data; and the general categories of data each type of user would need to support the educational success of California’s foster youth.
The brief outlines 17 critical core data areas, as well as four major types of users who have a role in supporting the educational success of children in foster care. In addition, the report recommends next steps aimed at carrying on the work of the collaborative.
Attorneys in a class action lawsuit representing thousands of young people in the State of Washington who use Medicaid insurance and need mental health services, filed a proposed settlement agreement this week that outlines a plan to deliver intensive in-home treatment to youth. The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from the National Center for Youth Law, Disability Rights Washington, National Health Law Program, and the Young Minds Advocacy Project, as well as the law firm of Perkins Coie.
Director John O’Toole Talks About the National Center for Youth Law
NCYL just launched a new three-minute video in partnership with the Giving Library. The video features NCYL Director John O’Toole talking about the work we do at the National Center for Youth Law to improve the lives of low-income children. The Giving Library, established by Laura and John Arnold, features video of leaders from nonprofit organizations across the country talking about their organization’s mission, objectives, and needs. You can view NCYL’s video below, and please feel free to share it with friends and colleagues.
NCYL Joins Civil Rights Leaders in Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown
The National Center for Youth Law joins many civil rights leaders in signing a letter urging California Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 420 into law. California schools currently issue more suspensions—more than 700,000—than diplomas each year. This is a shocking fact, because two decades of research has shown that out-of-school suspension as a punishment is educationally unsound for those students most likely to be suspended. One out-of-school suspension can make it:
5 times more likely that a student will drop out of school
Nearly 3 times more likely that a student will end up in the juvenile justice system within a year, as compared to similar students
Our state education code is causing the problem. One section, 48900(k), a.k.a. “willful defiance,” is the most serious grounds for nearly half of all suspensions, yet it is so subjective and vague that it is being applied disproportionately and disparately to students of color and students with disabilities.
AB 420 limits such suspensions in elementary school, where the state’s youngest children need extra chances and support; it also revises the definition of willful defiance so that it is more objective; and finally it focuses attention on alternatives.
After spending more than half her life behind bars for a crime she committed at the age of 16, Sara Kruzan has been tentatively granted parole and may soon be going home.
Now 35 years old, Sara was originally sentenced to life in prison without parole when, after years of sexual, physical and mental abuse, she shot and killed her pimp. In early 2011, outgoing California Governor Schwarzenegger, in response to pressure from a wide swath of groups, including the National Center for Youth Law, reduced Sara’s sentence to 25 years to life, allowing for the possibility of parole.
Sara’s sentence was again reduced in January of this year to 19 years to life when her conviction was reduced from first-degree to second-degree murder, making her eligible for parole now. While her release is all but assured, the full state Parole Board and governor’s office both could reverse the decision, though attorneys involved in the case think that unlikely.
The budget bill passed today by California's legislature would make it the first state to hold schools and school districts accountable for the educational outcomes of foster children.
The No Child Left Behind act requires states to evaluate schools and school districts based on the progress of different subgroups of children, including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who primarily speak a language other than English. California’s budget bill adds foster youth to this list, creating an incentive for schools to focus on the educational progress of the approximately 42,000 school-age foster children in California.
The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) invites you to participate in a campaign to end the inappropriate and harmful sedation of tens of thousands of foster children. High doses of psychotropic “antipsychotic” drugs produce lethargic, “zoned out” children, preventing their normal development. Medical guidelines do not sanction such sedation. The year 2012 may be the year that federal and state governments act to curb excessive drugging of our nation’s foster children.
Students in Dallas County truancy courts are being denied their constitutional rights, handcuffed and arrested for missing school, and subjected to substantial fines, according to a complaint filed June 12, 2013 with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of seven Dallas area students.
Attorneys with the National Center for Youth Law, Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas serve as legal counsel to the Complainants.
California Child Welfare Council Approves Project Plan to Combat Sex Trafficking in California
June 5, 2013 — Kate Walker, attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the National Center for Youth Law and Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie, Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court in Sacramento, presented a project plan to the California Child Welfare Council, outlining the strategy to combat the growing problem of sex trafficking of California's youth. The project plan provides guidance on implementing recommendations contained in the report Walker wrote entitled "Ending the Commercial Sexual Explotiation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California." The Council unanimously approved the project plan and adopted the recommendations. As a result, the CSEC Action Team will be formed and co-chaired by the CSEC Action Team, co-chaired by Secreatary of Helath and Human Services, Diana Dooley, and co-chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Dooley, and Executive Director of the Children's Law Center of California, Leslie Heimov. A segment featuring Walker was aired on NPR's California Report.
February 28, 2013 — Today the National Center for Youth Law released a new report, "Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California." Worldwide, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, involving 100,000 children in the U.S. The FBI has determined that three of the nation's thirteen High Intensity Child Prostitution areas are located in California. Studies estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are or were formally involved with the child welfare system.
March 1, 2013, the Stuart Foundation released a report entitled, "At Greater Risk, California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College," that provides compelling data establishing that California children and youth in foster care need intensive and tailored services to support their educational goals. The data makes a strong case to require state and local agencies to count foster youth when allocation needed services, an issue currently under consideration by the legislature with the elimination of Foster Youth Services under Governor Brown's new education plan.
February 22, 2013 - The National Center for Youth Law, together with Santa Cruz County Human Services Department, Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Cruz, Juvenile Division, launched FosterEd: Santa Cruz County today.
The project, part of the national FosterEd Initiative (www.Foster-Ed.org), will improve the educational outcomes of the hundreds of school-age children in foster care living in Santa Cruz County.
AUSTIN, Texas — Bryan Independent School District's use of school resource officers to issue criminal sanctions for a range of minor student misbehavior unlawfully impacts African-American students, who are "cited" at a rate four times that of other students, according to a complaint filed Feb. 20, 2013 with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), on behalf of the public interest law center Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County branch of the NAACP.
Attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Center for Youth Law serve as legal counsel to the Complainants.
The California legislature has passed State Senate Bill 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act! This bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) allows inmates who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles the chance to request a resentencing hearing after serving 15 years.
Program Modeled on National Center for Youth Law's Foster Youth Education Initiative
May 15, 2012 - The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) has announced the creation of FosterEd: Indiana, a statewide program to improve the educational success of children in foster care. The DCS program will employ 16 education specialists and a statewide manager to ensure foster children receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school, and in life.
May 4, 2012 - The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) won a major victory today on behalf of foster children in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court’s dismissal of the foster care reform case brought by NCYL on behalf of Clark County's abused and neglected children, ruling that these children have a constitutional right to safety and adequate medical care. The appeals court also said that the county, and county and state officials, are liable if they fail to ensure that those constitutional rights are protected.
Spearheading Efforts to Protect Children with Histories of Abuse and Neglect from Sexual Exploitation
By Kate Walker
The thought of a 12-year-old girl being sold to older men to perform sex acts on a nightly basis is deeply disturbing. Even more troubling is the fact that it happens every day in cities throughout this country.
More than a year of negotiation with the State yields a collaborative agreement to suspend litigation and build a framework for reform of the mental health system for children on Medicaid.
Two state agencies and several advocacy groups have reached an interim agreement to develop a framework for reforms in the Washington state mental health system for children and youth enrolled in Medicaid. The agreement temporarily suspends litigation in a class action lawsuit filed against the Department of Social and Health Services and the Health Care Authority. View press release