Arwa BenOmran ’15 and Jordan Flanders ’15 teamed up in last quarter’s Youth and Education Law Project (“YELP”) to represent a client facing school district expulsion. They achieved wonderful results for their client beyond prevention of the discriminatory expulsion. Read the account below for background of the case and Arwa and Jordan’s great work.
O.G. is a 14-year-old boy with profound hearing loss, partial vision loss, and severe mental health issues. Although American Sign Language (“ASL”) is his only means of communication, O.G. has never received direct academic instruction in ASL and has had no way of communicating effectively with his hearing peers, teachers, and other school staff. In addition, although required by law, prior to YELP’s involvement O.G. had never been provided with any kind of psychological, behavioral, or mental health supports at school. Rather than providing these critical and legally mandated services, O.G.’s school repeatedly suspended him for behaviors that were manifestations of his mental health conditions and inability to communicate effectively across his language barrier.
When O.G. came to the clinic for help, things had become so severe that he was facing expulsion from his school district. Arwa and Jordan made the school district aware of its unlawful conduct and got the school district to agree to immediately stop the expulsion proceedings, acknowledge O.G.’s mental health conditions, and take steps to identify an appropriately therapeutic and ASL-rich school environment so that O.G. may attend school and benefit from his public education.
Following these initial negotiations, Arwa and Jordan helped the family search for a school placement that would address O.G.’s complex needs. After two months of further negotiations, O.G. ‘s school district agreed to fund an out-of-state therapeutic and residential placement that serves children with deafness and co-occurring mental health conditions. After four months out of school and years without academic instruction in his language, O.G. will finally have opportunities to communicate with teachers and peers in an ASL-rich environment that addresses his academic, social, and emotional needs. O.G. is excited about this opportunity to learn and catch up with his hearing peers, and hopes to return home in a year to attend the California School for the Deaf.