Youth involved with the juvenile justice system present with a higher rate of disability, including mental illness and learning disabilities, than do non-system-involved youth. These young people are often eligible for special education services as provided by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Eligible youth incarcerated in juvenile detention and correctional facilities, however, often fail to receive these services. Education advocates typically bring suits against school districts and correctional institutions alike under the IDEA’s mandate to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities. Unfortunately, this approach is failing because the IDEA is not able to tackle other conditions within facilities that stand as barriers to educational access. The IDEA, however, is not the sole remedy available. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which reaches beyond the educational context and applies to more governmental entities than the IDEA, offers a more robust litigation avenue for enforcing the education rights of incarcerated youth with disabilities. Bringing suit under the ADA, therefore, either alone or in conjunction with the IDEA, could result in more consistent enforcement of incarcerated youths’ right to an education than bringing suit solely under the IDEA.
Lauren A. Koster, Who Will Educate Me? Using the Americans with Disabilities Act to Improve Educational Access for Incarcerated Juveniles with Disabilities, 60 B.C.L. Rev. 673 (2019), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol60/iss2/7