Case Name: Jocelyn B. v. California Department of Education
Citation: CV 06-4067 R (MANx)
Jocelyn B. v. California Department of Education
In 2008, Learning Rights filed a federal lawsuit against the Pasadena Unified School District, the California Department of Education, and Hillsides Home for Children, a group home for foster children in Pasadena. The federal complaint, which was brought on behalf of four siblings in the foster care system, alleged that Pasadena Unified engaged in a widespread practice of unlawfully and systematically enrolling the foster children living at the group home known as Hillsides in the restrictive, on-grounds special education school on the Hillsides site – a school designed for seriously emotionally disturbed children. Learning Rights and its co-counsels, Public Counsel, and Morrison & Foerster, complained that Pasadena Unified and the Group Home “rubber stamped” the Plaintiffs’ placement in this institutionalized educational setting without any assessment showing that they could not function in a regular public school environment, and without the participation of a surrogate parent or parent to represent the children’s interests as required by law.
The lawsuit sought injunctive relief to ensure that these siblings and all other similarly situated foster children are not summarily denied the right to attend public school with non-disabled and non-foster youth, as well as general and punitive damages for the effect that this restrictive educational setting has had on the Plaintiffs.
The lawsuit resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of placements for the children, whose life vastly improved and who were able to receive their education in the least restrictive environment. The siblings were no longer segregated and they were able to interact with their peers. By receiving the appropriate education placements, these children got the chance to develop to the best of their abilities and be on their path to the economic and self-sufficiency.
The real significance of the case, however, goes beyond these four youth - Pasadena Unified School District is home to the largest number of group homes in the Los Angeles County and the District made a number of policy changes due to the lawsuit filed by Learning Rights. These policies benefited a vast number of other foster youth living in group homes who were able to receive appropriate placements in the least restrictive environment.