Our attorneys work with children and youth of all ages to be sure they are treated fairly and receive the supports they need for academic achievement. Every child must have the opportunity to stay in school and graduate.
Children who need special education and related services must be identified early so they get the support they need. Exclusion from school – or inability to access the curriculum – has tremendous negative impact on a child’s academic career.
The exclusion of our youngest learners, from preschool through grade 2, continues to be a particular concern in Connecticut and nationwide. In many cases, the disproportionality of race/ethnicity is even more pronounced in this age group. Young boys of color tend to be excluded at rates much higher than their total representation.
We must create an environment where educators recognize trauma that can cause misbehavior. We work to confront cultural bias and promote mental wellness because we know that childhood experiences like violence and family dysfunction can predict academic failure.
We advocate for new laws and changes to systems and policies to address issues like chronic absenteeism, out-of-school suspension, access to behavioral health services, and early identification and supports for children who need special education. Recent law written by the Center for Children’s Advocacy includes:
The Center filed two complaints with the State Department of Education against Bridgeport Public Schools to assure delivery of services to special education students, accusing Bridgeport of failing to provide individual plans for its most vulnerable students, asking the state to intercede. The Complaints detail numerous examples of neglect.
The Center’s seminars present statewide experts on important educational issues.
Kathryn Meyer, Esq., Director, Speak Up Project email@example.com 203-335-0719
As co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Sheff v. O’Neill, the Center’s Racial Justice Project continues to represent Hartford children to provide equal educational opportunity to children of color.
The state’s Alternative Education programs disproportionately serve children of color. Thousands of students are moved to schools that operate with little accountability and inferior educational supports.
The dropout rate at some programs was almost 90%. Working with education officials, legislators, teachers and families, the Center spearheaded reform of Connecticut’s alternative education programs.
In 2014, the Center wrote and secured passage of PA 13-122, which required the State Department of Education (SDE) to evaluate each of the State’s Alternative Education programs.
In 2015, the Center wrote and secured passage of PA 15-133, which requires Alternative Education programs to provide the same supports as regular schools and provide reports about their programs to the SDE. The Racial Justice Project is monitoring schools’ adherence in multiple cities and working with the SDE on development of statewide guidelines for Alternative Education programs.
Leon Smith, Esq, Director, Racial Justice Project, LSmith@kidscounsel.org, 203-335-0719
Click link above for information and legal documents related to the Center’s systemic advocacy:
Sheff v. O’Neill
Sheff v. O’Neill is a landmark civil rights lawsuit that seeks educational equality. The plaintiffs continue to advocate for the State of Connecticut to uphold the constitutional rights of children in Hartford to an equal educational opportunity.
Substandard alternative education offered to expelled children disproportionately affects students of color and violates equal protection guarantees of both the state and U.S. constitutions. Alicia B. names Bloomfield, Hartford and Manchester’s public school districts, the state Department of Education and the state Board of Education as defendants.
Norwalk Public Schools
Norwalk Public Schools have failed to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education to students as a result of violations of Child Find obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Center for Children’s Advocacy, Norwalk Special Education Attorney Robin Keller, and SEEK (Special Education Equity for Kids of CT), filed a complaint with the State Department of Education alleging that Norwalk systemically and pervasively violates federal and state laws.
Bridgeport Public Schools
Bridgeport Public Schools have failed to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education to students as a result of violations of Child Find obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Child Find requires that at the beginning of each school year, districts must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in effect for each child with a disability. Special education and related services must conform to the IEP for the individual student.
Hartford Public Schools systematically and pervasively denies expelled special education students their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to provide special education and related services to confer meaningful educational benefit.
CT Technical High School System
Center for Children’s Advocacy and Greater Hartford Legal Aid filed a complaint against the Connecticut Technical High School System alleging that CTHSS applies admissions policies in ways that discriminate against students with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.