DC to settle suit for not providing special education in jail during pandemic

High school students with disabilities in the D.C. jail reached a settlement with the District on Monday, after a lawsuit claimed they were denied an education while incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, D.C. Public Schools stopped providing in-person education to students in the city jail. Instead, students received work packets, which they were expected to complete, without instruction or a teacher’s help.

In April 2021, three students with disabilities sued DCPS and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, in a class action suit, for failing to provide them with an education and other services they are entitled to under federal law.

The suit said approximately 40 students enrolled in DCPS at the jail were deprived of their special education needs since in-person learning never resumed.

Now, court records show a settlement agreement has been reached, and is pending preliminary approval in the District Court for the District of Columbia.

In a news release, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs said the District has selected Maya Angelou Public Charter School Academy, which has experience providing education to incarcerated young people, as the educational provider at the D.C. Jail.

In addition, the students who were affected will receive “significant compensatory education packages, which provide them with funding for tutoring, counseling and post-secondary opportunities.”

And, the District will fund a third-party auditor to ensure compliance with the settlement agreement.

“This landmark settlement agreement provides an opportunity for young people incarcerated at the DC Jail during COVID-19 to earn their high school diplomas,” Kaitlin Banner, deputy legal director at Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, said.  “A functioning high school at the DC Jail is an essential way to help students thrive and become healthy, successful adults.  Without an education, young people struggle to gain critical skills and support themselves.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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