Children’s Rights & Education
Children’s Task Force
Established in 2003, the Children’s Task Force examines issues relating to children in Colorado to determine if there are any legal problems that would benefit from advocacy of Colorado Lawyers Committee volunteers. In past years, task force volunteers worked to ensure that the State provides behavioral therapy services to children with autism through Medicaid as required by federal law. A few years ago, the Task Force began to explore other possible issues and formed two subcommittees: Foster Care and Immigration. The Foster Care subcommittee remains active.
Children’s Task force - FOSTER CARE SUBCOMMITTEE
Works to address the issue of youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems who are being housed/treated in overly restrictive, non-integrated placements, due to a lack of appropriate residential placements and community support. Youth are often unnecessarily removed from the home, or placed far away in facilities that are more restrictive than necessary, which can prevent family reunification, and cause children to remain in detention facilities for weeks and months awaiting placement. In 2018, the subcommittee partnered with Children’s Rights, a national nonprofit which advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children throughout the country, to explore possible litigation to assure Colorado children are protected.
Education Task Force
The Lawyers Committee has a long history of advocating on educational issues. Much of the Task Force’s work during the last six years has focused on litigation, including Dwyer v. Colorado, which alleged that the State’s $1 billion per year cuts to school funding since 2010 are in violation of Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the cuts in 2014. A few years ago, the Task Force began exploring advocacy for children through four subcommittees: Anti-Bullying, DPS Resegregation, Special Education and School Discipline. Three of these subcommittees remain active.
Education Task Force - School Discipline subcommittee
Works to assure that recently adopted school practices, including threat assessments, are non-discriminatory, and provide parents and children with appropriate due process. Identifies ways to improve school policies and educate parents regarding school discipline.
Education Task Force - Special Education subcommittee
Explores issues impacting special education in Colorado’s schools, including charter school practices of not providing services to special needs kids; lack of funding for identification of students needing services; and underfunding of districts to provide necessary services.
In 2018, the Special Education Subcommittee examined the implementation of the US Supreme Court decision in a Douglas County case that requires the state to offer an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make appropriate progress.
Education Task Force - ANTI-BULLYING SUBCOMMITTEE
Works with school districts to assure their compliance with HB11-1254 which requires schools to adopt policies to prohibit bullying on the basis of a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. As of early 2019, all but four districts are now either in compliance or in the process of adopting policies to comply with this law
children’s rights & education HISTORICAL highlights
Two new subcommittees of the Children’s Task Force explore issues related to foster care and immigration.
The Children’s Task Force is created to advocate on issues impacting children, including the availability of preschool in Colorado for disadvantaged children, immigration, and access to Medicaid.
The Foster Care Task Force negotiates an agreement for a 39% increase in child welfare case workers, millions of dollars for substance abuse and mental health treatment, and improved accountability.
The Children’s Legislative Task Force successfully advocates for the passage of several new Colorado laws: a childhood immunization bill, a child support enforcement statute, and a bill that requires Colorado hospitals to ask unwed fathers to acknowledge their parenthood at the time of their child’s birth.
The Education Task Force creates four new subcommittees: Anti-Bullying, Special Education, School Discipline and DPS Resegregation.
Dwyer v. State of Colorado challenges the State’s funding of K-12 schools, alleging that the State’s $1 billion per year cuts to school funding since 2010 were a violation of Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution.
A new School Discipline Task Force helps pass HB15-1273 to compile data on over-criminalization of student conduct.
CLC partners with Donnell-Kay Foundation to assess legal obstacles to the Foundation’s ReSchool Colorado project, an effort to create an entirely new state public education system.
In a five-week trial in August 2011 (Lobato v. State of Colorado), volunteers argue that Colorado’s school finance system does not meet the ‘thorough and uniform’ requirement of the State constitution. More than 70 volunteers from 12 law firms participate in the case.
Haley v. Colorado Department of Education challenges Colorado’s funding for special education students.
Giardino v. Colorado, filed on behalf of 23,000 students in six Colorado school districts with unsafe, deteriorating school buildings, challenges the State’s refusal to fund safe educational facilities. After several days of trial, a settlement provides $190 million legislative funding to improve deteriorating public school facilities.
The School Discipline Task Force addresses concerns about the unequal enforcement of the Colorado School Discipline Act and proposes legislation, enacted in 1996, that amends the Act and ensures due process for all students facing school discipline.
CLC sues (Booth v. Board of Education) to force Denver Public Schools to comply with a State Board of Education’s decision granting charter status to Thurgood Marshall Charter Middle School.
The Proprietary Schools Task Force is formed to focus on legislative reform and litigation to protect students at proprietary schools.
The Rural Education Task Force assists Hispanic students in the Fort Morgan school district to address issues arising out of perceived discrimination against Hispanics in the district and establish a grievance procedure to resolve issues of ethnic and racial discrimination. Volunteers also work on behalf of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes to oppose legislation that would reduce state funds to their schools.
The Education Task Force is established to improve educational opportunities and initially focuses its efforts on the primarily Latino and Native American populations in the San Luis Valley and the Four Corners area.
Volunteers challenge the constitutionality of Colorado’s Public School Finance Act in Hafer v. Colorado State Board of Education. The case is dismissed when sweeping school finance reforms are enacted by the Colorado legislature.
In Duran v. Center Consolidated School District, CLC negotiates a landmark settlement in a suit against the Center School District for its failure to maintain a bilingual program for its predominantly Spanish-speaking student body.
CLC serves as co-counsel for intervenors in Keyes v. School District No. 1, to protect the rights of Denver Public School students with limited English proficiency. The court rules the district’s bilingual education program violates the Federal Equal Educational Opportunity Act.
Lujan v. State Board of Education, filed on behalf of children in low-wealth school districts, seeks a declaration that the Colorado School Finance Act is unconstitutional because it allocates state funds to public schools based on the property wealth of each district.