IDEA and the Juvenile Justice System: A Factsheet

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By Adam Segal

What Is IDEA?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the Federal Government’s special education law. IDEA provides supplementary Federal funds to assist States and local communities in providing educational opportunities for approximately 6 million students with varying degrees of disability who participate in special education. As a requirement for receiving IDEA Federal funding, States must offer free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment [1].

Who Is Eligible for IDEA Funds?
In order to receive special education and related services, a student must first be determined to have a disability. A parent, guardian, or educator requests that a student be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team to determine if the child has a disability and needs special education or related services as a result of the disability [2].

What Is an IEP?
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a key component in fulfilling IDEA regulations. An IEP is developed by the parent or guardian and the student’s teachers and related services personnel. The IEP outlines how the child will receive free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment under IDEA law. Among other components, the IEP lays out the child’s academic achievement and functional

IDEA Snapshot
  • Under IDEA, the U.S. Department of Education provides more than 10 and a half billion dollars to States for students with special education needs.
  • To be eligible for IDEA services, a student is evaluated by a multidisciplinary team.
  • Once considered eligible, the student must receive an IEP developed by parents or guardians, teachers, and related services personnel.

performance, describes how the child will be included in the general education curriculum, establishes annual goals for the student, and describes how those goals will be measured. Additionally, the IEP states what special education and related services are needed by the student, describes how the student will be appropriately assessed including through the use of alternate assessments, and determines what accommodations may be appropriate for the student’s instruction and assessments [3].

The Prevalence of Learning Disabilities in Incarcerated Youth
Children entering a juvenile correction facility may come from schools that did not appropriately identify students with special education needs. The loss of records or failure to have current records follow these high-mobility students also results in under-identification and late identification of the special needs of the students. The juvenile justice system can remedy this shortcoming in the identification process by screening all youth upon admission into a facility [4]. Statistically students in a correctional facility are more than three times as likely to have a learning disability than their counterparts in general education [5]. Some 33.4% of incarcerated juveniles have been identified to have a disability that qualifies them for special education and related services under IDEA, compared to roughly 10% of the general education population. That 33.4% only includes those children that have been identified—the exact percentage of incarcerated juveniles with learning disabilities could be much higher.

What is the Link Between Delinquency and Learning Disabilities?
Why are so many special education students committed? Common theories connecting delinquency and learning disabilities are:

  • School failure. Learning and behavioral disabilities may lead to academic failure and dropout which may result in delinquency.
  • Behavior predisposition. Students with disabilities exhibit certain cognitive, behavioral, and personality deficits (lack of impulse control, poor reception to social cues, or diminished ability to learn from experience), leading to an increased susceptibility to delinquent behavior.
  • Lack of strategies. Delinquent youth with disabilities may be more likely to be apprehended by police because of a lack of skills to plan strategies, avoid detection, interact appropriately, and comprehend questions and warnings during police encounters [6].
IDEA Funding
  • Facilities providing special education to students with learning disabilities are eligible to receive supplemental funding through IDEA.
  • If you are not receiving IDEA funding but are serving the population, contact your State Department of Education.

The challenges of working with children with disabilities increase with those students in a correctional setting, especially those in short-term detention facility settings where students stay for short periods of time and generally have been disengaged from any learning situation for some time prior to their incarceration [7]. The education system has often failed to recognize the most effective ways to reach students through special needs services because these students have not been identified as having special needs.

Educator Goals Working With Incarcerated Youth With Disabilities
Two major goals for educators working with incarcerated youth who have special needs in correctional facilities are to:

  • Identify students with special education needs and ensure that they have up-to-date evaluations and IEPs.
  • Re-engage students in the learning process. While a student may have limited time in a correctional facility, if the education staff can spark interest in learning, chances of reincarceration will decrease [8].

Resources:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Web site. Retrieved on March 31, 2011 from http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home.
U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Guide to frequently asked questions. (2005, February). Retrieved on March 22, 2005, from http://nc.agbell.org/document.doc?id=148.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) homepage. Retrieved on March 31, 2011 from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/index.html.
U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. (2005, February). No Child Left Behind Act: Questions and Answers on No Child Left Behind. Retrieved on March 22, 2005, from edworkforce.house.gov/issues/109th/education/nclb/nclbfaq.pdf.
Resources Related to IDEA 2004, from the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET).
The Council for Exceptional Children


[1] Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Guide to frequently asked questions. (2005, February). Retrieved on March 22, 2005.
[2] Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Guide to frequently asked questions. (2005, February). Retrieved on March 22, 2005.
[3] Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Guide to frequently asked questions. (2005, February). Retrieved on March 22, 2005.
[4] Smith, C. R.; Esposito, J.; & Gregg, S.(2002, June). Advocating for Children with Behavioral and Cognitive Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System. EDJJ.
[5] National Center on Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice. (2005, February). EDJJ Notes, 4(1).
[6] Platt, J.; & Alan, T. (2004). Juvenile Justice Educator Training: Identifying the Need and Barriers. JJET.
[7] National Center on Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice. (2005, February). EDJJ Notes, 4(1).
[8] National Center on Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice. (2005, February). EDJJ Notes, 4(1).

 

Published April 2005 / Updated April 2011