Wednesday, January 29, 2014



Written by: shelley IN THE oRANGE cOUNTY bREEZE |

January 29, 2014    ::  Yesterday, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion (pdf) against Los Angeles Unified School District in a civil case brought by the District concerning Michael Garcia.

The School District sought relief from the cost of providing special education services to adult students serving time in County jail.

Under California law in conformity with Federal requirements, a student between the ages of 18 and 22 without a high school diploma is entitled to continuing special education services even if jailed.

The question before the court was not whether Mr. Garcia was entitled to continuing special education, but rather who was going to pay the cost of that continuing education.

Broadly speaking, the taxpayers of the State of California bear the cost.

More specifically, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling by the California Supreme Court that the cost of providing continuing education to a jailed student will be borne by the district in which the jailed student’s parent lives.

According to Court documents, Garcia’s mother has lived in the City of Bell since before his birth in June 1990. Bell is served by the Los Angeles Unified School District. In second grade, Garcia was ruled eligible for special education services.

Before his sixteenth birthday, he was arrested and sent to juvenile hall, where he received special education services through the Los Angeles County Office of Education. In June 2008, he was moved to Los Angeles County Jail to await trial.

Garcia wished to continue special education, but no one took responsibility for providing those services once he moved to County Jail.

After a long and winding road through administrative hearings, the matter eventually came before the Ninth Circuit in the form of Los Angeles Unified School District seeking relief from paying the cost of delivering special education services to students between the ages of 18 and 22 housed in Los Angeles County Jail.

The Ninth Circuit requested clarification of the State Education Code from the State Supreme Court, which ruled that California Education Code section 56041 places responsibility for providing special education to a qualifying individual who is serving time in a county jail on the school district in which the student’s parent resides.

This ruling applies throughout the State of California.

The Jan. 28 per curiam ruling applies the State Supreme Court clarification to the particular case.

According to a summary of the case prepared by Court staff:

Affirming the district court’s judgment, the panel held, pursuant to the Supreme Court of California’s answer to a certified question, that when a student between the ages of 18 and 22 who is eligible for special education services in California is incarcerated in a county jail, the cost of the student’s education is borne by the school district where the student’s parent resides.

In a per curiam opinion, the Court rules as a whole, rather than having a single judge issue a ruling.

The judges in the case were Alex Kozinski, acting as Chief Judge; and Barry G. Silverman and Kim McLane Wardlaw, acting as Circuit Judges. Judge Kozinski replaced Judge Betty Binns Fletcher after the latter’s death in October 2012. The case was originally argued December 9, 2011.

In the meantime, Garcia was moved to state prison after pleading guilty to a variety of charges and receiving a sentence of twelve years.

Editor’s note: because this case affirms an opinion issued by the California State Supreme Court, it applies to all school districts in the State of California — including Los Alamitos Unified School District and Anaheim Union High School District, serving students in Cypress, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, and Seal Beach.

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