11/10/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, US // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Lancaster, CA—The American Civil Liberties Union and several other public interest law firms recently settled a class-action lawsuit they filed against Los Angeles County, alleging substandard educational efforts at a Lancaster juvenile detention center. The settlement, approved by the Board of Supervisors last Wednesday, is expected to pave the way for improved education at the Challenger Memorial Youth Center, according to a Nov. 4, 2010 Contra Costa Times report.

According to information provided, some 650 youths attend Christa McAuliffe High School at the Challenger Memorial Youth Center. A class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and public interest groups in January alleged the juvenile facility “failed to provide constitutionally accurate education” to teens detained there.

For instance, when “Casey A.” graduated from Challenger’s Christa McAuliffe High School, even though he was apparently never taught to read. “He didn’t even know what a diploma was, even though he was handed one,” said Mark D. Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California.

Rosenbaum added, “From its very inception, Challenger has been the black hole of Los Angeles’ juvenile justice system, a hellish place where every child has been left behind… A sentence to Challenger more often than not has been the first step to lifetime sentence to California’s penal system; that Challenger was built literally by a stone’s throw from a state prison is more than a metaphor.”

The county Office of Education and the Probation Department are expected to work with notable professionals as a means of improving the educations of the youths who attend the high school at Challenger.

As part of the settlement, the county will move towards developing more efficient methods of educating students. The county and experts will focus on literacy, instruction, transition, special education, aftercare, and several other fields. Youths will also have access to literacy, career and technical programs.

To ensure that the youths are receiving appropriate education, the agreement also incited the establishment of the Challenger Reform Taskforce. The Challenger Reform Taskforce will be responsible for keeping a watchful eye on the reform efforts to make sure they are being taken seriously.

While the settlement has yet to be approved by a federal judge, Los Angeles County also reportedly agreed to pay $325,000 in attorney’s fees and other expenses.

LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky maintained, “Without educational tools, all the young men and women in our system are behind the 8-ball… This settlement gets them out from behind the 8-ball and gives them a fighting chance to succeed in life.”

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan– Legal News for California Civil Rights Lawyers.

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