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.


Manson Youth Institution

The Center for Children’s Advocacy engages in advocacy and reform efforts on behalf youth and young adults across the justice systems in Connecticut, including young people held at the Manson Youth Institution, the Department of Corrections facility housing young men through the age of 21. The facility is responsible for housing Connecticut’s 15-17 year old minors charged as adults. CCA’s advocacy encompasses access to appropriate education, health and mental health services, especially for young people with disabilities, as well as assisting young people leaving MYI and transitioning back to the community. Given its status as a facility in the adult correctional system, the facility and its young people and their developmentally appropriate treatment are a priority for CCA.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, conditions facing the young people at MYI were particularly stark given the pandemic-specific restrictions imposed by DOC. The young people were receiving virtually no education other than remote packet instruction, little access to mental health services, and extremely limited out of cell time. CCA engaged national partners, the National Center for Youth Law and the Juvenile Law Center, to request that the DOC drastically improve such conditions, and elicited several demands. Extensive good faith negotiations between CCA and its partners, and the DOC and attorney general’s office ensued. As a result of discussions that lasted into 2021 and involved a meeting with experts CCA and national partners brought to the table, CCA, NCYL and JLC were able to resolve the matter in a settlement to benefit all of the young people in the facility without having to file a law suit.

The agreement, which runs through the end of September 2021, provides the following:

  • Ensures ongoing in-person instruction, except for those in medical isolation or quarantine
  • Ensures individualization of packets and feedback on packets for those in medical isolation or quarantine
  • Ensures installation of an internal WiFi network to support an online learning platform with a target date of September 2021
Mental health:
  • Provision of in-person mental health services, including in-person bi-weekly reassessment of all young people under 18 not currently receiving services (exceptions for those in medical isolation or quarantine)
  • Clear posting and opportunity for those over 18 year to request and/or be reassessed for mental health services on a weekly basis
Out of cell time and programming:
  • National expert consultations to commence with DOC staff regarding expanding out of cell time and programming options
Fees for experts and attorneys’ time
Monthly reporting on education, mental health and quarantining and isolation status

Alicia B.

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.

Legal Documents
  • Alicia B Expulsion Complaint (December 2015): Alicia B., PPA through her Parent and Next Friend, Cynthia B; Tobias J., PPA through his Parent and Next Friend, Robert J. v. Governor Dannel Malloy; Dianna Wentzell, commissioner of the State Department of Education; Allan Taylor, Chair, State Board of Education; Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, Superintendent, Hartford Board of Education; Matthew Geary, Superintendent, Manchester Board of Education; James Thompson, Jr., Superintendent, Bloomfield Board of Education. Dec 2015. Center for Children’s Advocacy, National Center for Youth Law, K&L Gates, LLP
  • Alicia B. Settlement Agreement (July 2018): Improvements for Education for Expelled Students in Connecticut. Alicia B. vs. Malloy, challenging the inadequate education provided to expelled students in Connecticut, has fully settled. This settlement represents a significant step forward for the education of expelled students in Connecticut. In Alicia B., Center for Children’s Advocacy (CCA) with its co-counsel, National Center for Youth Law and K&L Gates LLP, represented two middle school students who effectively received no education during their expulsions, despite their right under the Connecticut state constitution to an education. As a result of the litigation, the State passed legislation requiring that expelled students be educated in accordance with standards,which included significant feedback from CCA and NYCL, developed to ensure their educational progress. In addition to those reforms, the settlement requires that the State issue additional guidance to school districts, provide resources on reducing expulsions to school districts, families and the community, and monitor and address racial disparities in expulsions.  Previous settlements in the case had ensured that individual plaintiffs were made whole for their loss of education.
  • Expulsion Guidance issued as a result of the Alicia B. settlement, issued by the State Department of Education, clarifies circumstances under which a school district can expel a student, the requirement that students must have sufficient notice that the offense may be expellable, procedures for expulsion hearings including notice provided in language understandable to the family at least 5 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, right to request a postponement, right to examine evidence and cross examine witnesses, and provision allowing students to petition for early readmission. When students who are expelled move between school districts, the new district must adopt the decision of the previous school district through a formal hearing process should they wish to continue the expulsion.
  • State of Connecticut Department of Education Best Practices for students receiving an alternative education opportunity as a result of being expelled.
    Guidance addresses program characteristics, academic and instructional supports, climate and culture, counseling and support services, responsibilities and training for educators, parent/guardian and family engagement, transition planning and support, and program evaluation. August 2018.

  • State of Connecticut Department of Education Memo re Best Practices for students receiving alternative education, August 2018.

KinderCare: Daycare Access for Children with Diabetes

KinderCare Education of Portland, Oregon, has entered into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that KinderCare’s child care programs and other services were not accessible to children with Type 1 diabetes who are dependent on insulin injections, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). KinderCare operates approximately 1,800 facilities in the U.S., and the settlement agreement applies to all of KinderCare’s facilities.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut by the Center for Children’s Advocacy alleging violations of Title III of the ADA.  Specifically, the complaint alleges that KinderCare refused to assist two children who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes with insulin administration.  A third complaint against KinderCare by the parent of another child with Type 1 diabetes was filed by CCA during the course of the investigation.  The government determined that KinderCare’s national policy and practice was that KinderCare staff would not directly administer insulin to children via a syringe or pen.  Instead, KinderCare required parents of the children identified in the complaint to appear at its facility to administer the insulin to their children or hire another person, at the parents’ own expense, to do so.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.  KinderCare is a private entity that operates child care facilities that are places of “public accommodation” within the meaning of Title III of the ADA.

Under the agreement, KinderCare is obligated to take critical steps toward improving access for children with Type 1 diabetes, including revising its policies and procedures, revising its training, and performing ongoing assessments of the need for reasonable accommodations.

Press (Hartford Courant 9-27-18)

Norwalk Public Schools

The Connecticut State Department of Education ordered Norwalk Public Schools to provide speech and language services and compensatory hours of education to students who did not receive needed support. SDE also directed the school system to review its system for providing disabled students adequate time with nondisabled peers .. Complaint (October 2018) and SDE Decision (July 2019) are linked below. The Complaint was filed by CCA attorney Kathryn Meyer, Norwalk attorney Robin Keller, and educational advocate Jill Chukas.


Bridgeport Public Schools

Bridgeport Public Schools have failed to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) 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.


Medical Transport for Low-Income Families

Complaint filed against the Connecticut Department of Social Services and LogistiCare Solutions for ongoing violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act that jeopardize the health and well-being of low-income children who need non-emergency medical transportation.

Legal Documents

New Visions

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.

Legal Documents

CT Technical High School System

The 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.

Legal Documents

Emily J.

Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit to challenge the conditions of confinement in Connecticut’s Juvenile Detention Centers and the treatment of children confined in those facilities. Overcrowded conditions at Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven Juvenile Detention Centers , lack of adequate medical and mental health care, classification system, staffing, recreational, visitation, and educational opportunities, the lack of alternative placements and the lack of appropriate planning for these children violated their rights.

Legal Documents