Father of detained teen who developed COVID-19 in detention files complaint

The father of a 17-year-old in the Hays County Juvenile Detention Center who has tested positive for COVID-19 has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The father, identified only as E.Z., alleges his son’s rights under various federal laws have been denied during his detention, which has included stays in solitary confinement.

The teen was 16 when he came into the facility in May but had a birthday in June. Under Texas law, 17-year-olds are adults and should be housed in an adult correctional facility. His father is asking for a special education due process hearing and the complaint names both the Hays County Juvenile Detention Center and the John H. Woods Charter School, the local educational agency that oversees the educational component of the detention center.

The complaint was received by the TEA , according to educational advocate Debra Liva.

Liva said, and the complaint spells out, that the student has not experienced any interventions to address his disabilities, which include ADHD, autism and a speech impairment “which primarily involves pragmatic (social communications), receptive and expressive language.” According to the complaint, the student has an IQ of 76 and is “at the 5th percentile relative to children his age when he was tested in 2017.

Moreover, the student recently lost his mother in a house fire and Liva says he “has not been able to even grieve for her loss.” The complaint goes further, stating that the son has also been unable to “understand how to put all these current life events in context to make some sort of sense of them, due to his disability.”

His original solitary confinement, the complaint alleges “was initially documented as ‘health issues,’ but it was later explained to the parent … that it was at the student’s request because he was being bullied by others in the facility” and was put into solitary as a precaution.

He was again placed in solitary for symptoms of COVID-19 and his father was informed on June 24 he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

During his whole 40 days in detention, Liva said, the student had been provided with one counseling session and that was not until he had been detained for more than 30 days.

The complaint states that the father is willing to accept mediation. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.

State law prevents the identity of detained juveniles or what they are charged with.

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