October 13, 2023
On Friday, October 13th, Policy and Advocacy Associates Rebecca Charles and Caitlyn Passaretti submitted written testimony to the New York City Council
Committees on Education, General Welfare, and Criminal Justice about access to education for students in detention centers. Rebecca and Caitlyn highlighted the many barriers that infringe on a student’s right to education while placed in detention centers, calling on City leaders to pass Int. 542, which will require data collection on students in detention to ensure their learning needs are met and supported. You can read the full testimony below.
Testimony of Rebecca Charles and Caitlyn Passaretti, Policy and Advocacy Associates
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Committee on Education, Committee on General Welfare, and Committee on Criminal Justice
Oversight: Educational Programming in Detention Facilities October 13th, 2023
Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi- issue child advocacy organization. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through civic engagement, research, and advocacy. We document the facts, engage and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.
We would like to thank Chairs Joseph, Ayala, and Rivera and all the members of the New York City Council Education, General Welfare, and Criminal Justice Committees for holding this important hearing on improving our city’s youth detention centers.
CCC believes strongly in the right to education for youth who are placed in juvenile detention centers and therefore supports Int. 542 that will require data collection on students in detention to ensure their learning needs are met and supported.
Despite efforts to improve the educational services that youth receive while in juvenile detention, a high number continue to struggle to access the education to which they are legally entitled. It is crucial for students to keep up with their credits and remain on track for promotion (middle school) and graduation (high school), as it will promote more successful reentry and ensure continued educational attainment. Young people with emotional disabilities make up close to half the students enrolled at schools in New York City’s juvenile detention centers and in the Rikers Island jail.i Students with IEPs are required to receive the services named in their IEPs while detained, yet many are not provided with access to education or IEP-mandated services while they are in detention or placement.ii
While progress has been made in facilitating educational resources for students in detention, the COVID- 19 pandemic has negatively impacted students’ ability to learn. Due to COVID restrictions, the restructuring of school during the onset of the pandemic, and risk of exposure within detention, education can continuously be interrupted, and students can be denied their legal right to support and learning.
Therefore, this bill is of even more importance to ensure that every student is accounted for and to ensure transparency, monitoring, and accountability of youth in detention.
We know education can be a positive structure in students’ lives and we urge the Council to ensure that all students, especially those court-involved, remain connected to schooling and are able to access future opportunities. Int. 542 would work to address the lack of transparency and data reported on educational programming in youth detention centers. We recommend that the bill language be modified to clarify that educational programming is provided through the Department of Education and ACS, rather than through the Department of Correction. We also urge the bill authors to request additional data on whether or not students receive specific IEP services, the number/percentage of children who have English Language
Learner status and who received language services, and the reasons students were prevented from attending educational programs These data will help community advocates and city leaders to identify programmatic or systems challenges within juvenile detention , leading to improved advocacy efforts and sustainable solutions for young people.
We hope the data collected can inform the commitment of resources to the system to improve the available support and outcomes for youth.
Thank you for providing the opportunity to testify.