All children in the U.S., regardless of immigration status, are entitled to a free public education on the same basis as other kids, even if they are locked up. But at the Karnes family detention center, the school is on the second floor, and since there’s no elevator, completely inaccessible to kids with mobility impairments.
How does an inaccessible school break the law? Let me count the ways. It violates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), originally passed in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Yes, those statutes are forty-three (43) and forty-one (41) years old, respectively. The inaccessible Karnes school the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA, passed in 1990, is the baby of this trio of federal civil rights laws, but at twenty-six (26) is a grown up. It needs its own health insurance.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the world’s largest prison corporation are in violation of three major federal civil rights laws, and a host of state laws regarding education for students with disabilities? Aaargh, as if we needed more proof that ICE and private prison corporations such as GEO lack the competence and ethics to lock up refugee children. (Yes, I know that’s redundant. No ethical person would lock up a refugee child who posed no danger to anyone.)
Here’s the letter I just wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice. Please spread the word. And please, check out YOUR nearest family detention center, whether in Berks, Dilley, or Karnes, to see how they educate or fail to educate children with obvious or not-so-obvious disabilities.
And while you are at it, check out your local juvenile detention center, too. Ask questions. I’ve been going to Karnes for three years and didn’t know about the inaccessible school until Monday of this week. Shame on me.