Parents’ suit alleges Connecticut is failing to provide expelled students with a constitutionally adequate education
Youth today reports that two families have filed suit against the state of Connecticut challenging the quality of education given to students who are expelled from public schools. The lawsuit alleges that expelled students receive an inferior education, in violation of the state’s constitutional guarantee of an adequate education and their right to equal protection under state and federal law.
The suit claims that the two student plaintiffs struggled to access complete and challenging curriculums during their expulsions from middle school. The suit states that one of the students spent fewer than three hours per day in a school setting, struggled to get assignments from her home school and received no grades for the work she completed in an alternative program. The plaintiffs contend Connecticut should set clear, adequate standards for education during expulsion to avoid a repeat of the plaintiffs’ experience. About 1,000 students are expelled from the state’s schools each year, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also said that because black students are disproportionately expelled from public schools in Connecticut, they also are disproportionately deprived of their educational rights. During the 2013-14 academic year, black students made up 13 percent of the state enrollment but accounted for 31 percent of expulsions, according to state data cited in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit names Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, as well as officials from the state Department of Education and Board of Education and the superintendents in three school systems: Hartford, Manchester and Bloomfield.
The state Department of Education referred questions about the lawsuit to the attorney general, but released a statement that said suspensions and expulsions in the state are declining. “The decline in suspensions and expulsions is a testament to the work being done to address the problem by engaging partners, identifying best practices in behavioral management, and providing training on family engagement, mental health referrals, de-escalating confrontation and restorative justice,” the department said in their statement.
The statement added that more work remains to be done, including partnerships that try to engage students in school and divert them from the juvenile justice system.
Source: Youth today, 1/21/16, By Sarah Barr
[Editor’s Note: In July 2011, Legal Clips summarized the decision of The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison Metropolitan Sch. Dist. v. Circuit Ct. for Dane Cnty. holding that a state court does not have statutory authority to order a school district to provide alternative educational services to a student expelled from school in accordance with a lawful and unchallenged expulsion order. The court concluded that even though state law governing delinquency petitions requires a school board to cooperate with the court in regard to a student or former student who is the subject of a delinquency petition, that law “does not require a school board or a school district to provide alternative educational resources to a juvenile who has been expelled from school” pursuant to the statute governing a school board’s authority to expel a student.]