Youth Justice Education Clinic Fights for Students Left Behind During Pandemic

The Youth Justice Education Clinic (YJEC) continues to fight for students left behind during the pandemic when many went without education at all for months and then continued to struggle with a lack of access to technology and services.

YJEC Students Sitting in Court

Youth Justice Education Clinic (YJEC) client, R.K., is 20 years old. He is Deaf and has severe language deprivation. Before R.K. engaged YJEC’s attorneys five years ago, he had been kicked out of numerous schools and Deaf and Hard of Hearing programs throughout Southern California because he had significant mental health needs.

R.K. is chronically houseless and lives in an RV with his father.  When the pandemic disrupted the education of all students in March 2020, R.K.'s education was completely derailed. Prior to the pandemic, school was not always a safe space for R.K.; students and staff would often taunt and punish him for being an outsider.  Still, R.K. was able to learn, be immersed in a Deaf community, and had access to showers, food, and other donations through the school's homeless education program. After March 2020, however, R.K. did not receive any education at all because he could not access technology on his own.

In November 2020, Stacy Nunez '22 (a YJEC student during the 2020-21, and 2021-22 school years, and now a post-graduate fellow with YJEC) filed a compliance complaint against the school district for failure to implement earlier settlements that had promised but failed to deliver, needed services for R.K.  Nunez utilized novel tactics such as including photos of R.K. to humanize him to reviewers at the California Department of Education, who ruled in R.K.’s favor.

Unfortunately, the District continued to fail R.K. YJEC filed another due process complaint against the District in April 2022. Student Marisol Dominguez-Ruiz '22 drafted the complaint (navigating very complicated facts and legal issues) and participated in negotiations with the District. To prepare for the hearing, YJEC hired communication experts to evaluate R.K.'s needs and learned there is a grave dearth of Deaf services not only in Los Angeles County but throughout California. After months of negotiations, YJEC obtained a significant monetary award for R.K. that he can use for education and other needs that have not been met for so long.