Current Initiatives, continued
Seeking justice and protecting rights for youth involved with the juvenile court
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
“Rebecca,” a 17 year-old student with diagnosed disabilities was recently suspended from her high school for non-violent behavior that relates to her disability. Despite having notice of her disability, the school failed to provide her with the due process protections provided by federal law before instituting her expulsion. Barton Center students are advocating for Rebecca to be allowed to return to her high school and for the school to properly evaluate her and provide her with the requisite supports and services to accommodate her disability.
“Lawrence” was arrested for obstruction of a police officer and criminal trespass. Lawrence is a 14 year-old special education student who reads at a third-grade level, and he has no past history of delinquency. Following his arrest, Lawrence was questioned by police at the police station where he made a self-incriminating statement. Barton Center students successfully argued a motion to suppress that statement on the basis that Lawrence did not validly waive his Miranda rights. Prior to questioning, the police failed to notify Lawrence of the charges against him, they did not notify his parents, and the officers did not take the special care require by law to ensure that a minor of Lawrence’s capacity properly understood his Miranda rights.
“Susan” was expelled for non-threatening and non-violent behavior that occurred on her thirteenth birthday. After the incident, the school district referred her case to the local juvenile court, whereupon Susan spent five hours in a solitary holding cell. Permanently expelled, facing juvenile delinquency charges, and forced to leave a loving foster home, this “A” student attempted to enroll in another school district, but was rebuffed due to the expulsion. Barton Center students administratively challenged the expulsion, enabling Susan to enroll in the new school district and return to her strong path of learning. Additionally, we are contesting the legality of the expulsion in federal court with the aim of enabling Susan to return to the district where she had a loving foster home.
“David” had been placed in over thirty foster and group homes by the age of thirteen. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday, he was involved in an armed robbery with two older youth. He did not have a gun, did not take any property, and did not hurt anyone. Nonetheless, he received a forty-year sentence in Georgia’s prisons, meaning that his entire adolescence and early adulthood would be lived behind bars. Currently twenty-six years old, David has served twelve of those forty years. Barton Center students are arguing for David’s release through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
“Robert,” a fifteen-year-old child who had only the fake worker documents identifying him as an adult, was taken to the county jail along with his adult brother. From there, the machine of Georgia’s criminal justice system churned. In the weeks leading up to his guilty plea, not even his attorney asked him his age. As such, Robert’s case was wrongly handled in criminal court, and he received a twenty-year prison sentence. Four years later, we received his request for legal services scrawled on the back of a prison flyer in a makeshift envelope. Barton Center students successfully vacated the child’s criminal conviction and sentence.