A federal class action lawsuit filed by juvenile justice advocates alleges that Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall officials have kept teenagers with disabilities in solitary confinement for up to 100 days and have denied them special education services that the county is legally required to provide. About a third of all students in the county’s Juvenile Hall are estimated to have disabilities.
“Despite knowing that many students have a learning disability, mental illness or other disabilities, Contra Costa County puts students in solitary confinement for behavior that is related to their disabilities, denies them general and special education services and holds them in conditions that can make their disabilities worse,” according to a news release issued by Disability Rights Advocates, Public Counsel and Paul Hastings LLP, the groups that filed the lawsuit Thursday.
County officials had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on it, said Betsy Burkhart, director of communications for Contra Costa County.
The advocates gave the example of W.B., a 17-year-old whose mental disability deteriorated when he was locked in solitary confinement for approximately 90 days. He began talking to himself and believed he was being poisoned. This led to a psychotic episode requiring hospitalization.
“Contra Costa County officials are abandoning education and the hope for change, the most powerful tools they have to reach young people in trouble,” said Grace Carter, partner at the law firm of Paul Hastings.
Public Counsel, a nonprofit firm based in Los Angeles, has testimonials from the students’ parents on its website.
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