Charles H. v. District of Columbia is a class action challenging the District of Columbia’s failure to provide special education and related services to students at the DC Jail since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students at issue in this case (the Plaintiffs) are incarcerated, have disabilities that entitled them to special education and related services, and seek the education that they need and are entitled to under federal and local law. Plaintiffs have alleged that, by depriving them of an appropriate education, the District is failing to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, federal implementing regulations, and District of Columbia law.
On March 13, 2020, DC Public Schools (DCPS) stopped in-person classes for all students due to the pandemic. Although DCPS promptly resumed virtual education for most students in the community, the approximately 40 students at the DC Jail complex were left to languish in the facility without teacher-facing instruction and were instead occasionally provided with work packets to complete on their own.
On June 16, 2021, the United States District Court provisionally certified the class and issued a preliminary injunction requiring the District to provide the Plaintiffs with their needed education and related services. Although it began to provide some teacher-facing instruction and services, the District failed to comply with the students’ Individualized Education Plans and the Court’s injunction.
On February 16, 2022, the Court held the District in contempt for its non-compliance with the preliminary injunction. It ordered the District to develop a plan to remedy its non-compliance. Soon after, the Parties filed related motions and the Court held argument on those motions on June 21, 2022.
On September 22, 2023, the Plaintiff class and the District of Columbia reached a Settlement Agreement. It is linked below.
Under the Settlement Agreement, the District is required to fulfill its obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to educate high school students at the DC Jail. The District has selected Maya Angelou Public Charter School Academy, an entity experienced in providing education to incarcerated young people, as the educational provider at the DC Jail. In addition, students who were deprived of their education during COVID-19 will receive significant compensatory education packages which provide them with funding for tutoring, counseling, and post-secondary opportunities. The District will regularly report on the provision of education at the DC Jail and fund a third-party auditor, Grace Lopes, who will work to ensure compliance with the Settlement Agreement.
On October 18, 2023, the Court certified the Plaintiff class and gave its preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement as “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” and “within the range appropriate for possible final approval, pursuant to Rule 23(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and applicable law, following notice to the Class and a Fairness Hearing.”
The Fairness Hearing will be conducted on December 18, 2023, at 10 AM before Judge Carl J. Nichols at the United States Courthouse in Washington, DC.
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