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Report Finds D.C. Delinquents Are Denied Special Education

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Washington--Despite the fact that almost half of the District of Columbia's juvenile delinquents have been identified as handicapped, most are not receiving special-education services, according to testimony given before a House panel this month.

Gene L. Dodaro, associate director of the general-government division in the General Accounting Office, told the House Subcommittee on Fiscal Affairs and Health for the District of Columbia that according to a gao study, approximately 46 percent, or about 595, of the 1,287 juvenile delinquents studied were identified as handicapped in 1983. Almost all the delinquents identified as handicapped were learning-disabled or emotionally disturbed, he said.

The juveniles were typically between the ages of 10 and 18, and most had been arrested for more than one crime, including burglary, robbery, and assault, Mr. Dodaro said. He also noted that handicapped delinquents tended to be younger and arrested more often than nonhandicapped delinquents.

The subcommittee requested the gao audit, a staff aide said, because of complaints by lawyers and parents about the treatment of such juvenile offenders.

Federal Response

Madeleine C. Will, assistant secretary for the Education Department's office of special education and rehabilitative services, told the panel that her office was aware of some of the problems addressed in the gao report. She said it was the responsibility of each state agency--or in the case of the District of Columbia, the local board of education--to monitor the facilities that are responsible for providing special-education services.

Ms. Will said her office has found that, in addition to the District of Columbia, a number of states are failing to ensure that their agencies provide adequate services for all handicapped children in compliance with P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

"Although significant progress has been made in implementing the requirements of [P.L. 94-142], the area of general supervision--which is closely tied to the broader problems of interagency cooperation--has been a persistent problem of national scope," she said.

Services Not Provided

In the District of Columbia, juvenile-delinquent cases are handled in several ways, according to Anthony N. Salvemini, senior evaluator with the Washington regional office of the gao

If a juvenile is found guilty of a criminal offense, he or she could be allowed to continue in school under the supervision of a probation officer or placed in a public or private residential facility.

Mr. Salvemini told the subcommittee that about 63 percent of the 595 handicapped delinquents identified did not receive the kind of individualized education program (iep) required for all special-education students under P.L. 94-142. Of those who did receive an iep, about 73 percent were placed in programs that did not meet all the requirements of P.L. 94-142.

He also noted that the Education Department found in 1983 that teachers in the facilities serving juvenile delinquents did not meet certification standards required under federal law.

"The reason for these problems is fundamental," Mr. Dodaro said. "The District has not implemented an effective system to ensure compliance with P.L. 94-142, as it relates to handicapped delinquents. The current system of coordination, information exchange, and program monitoring needs improvement."

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