FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:           May 24, 2024
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:     Margaretta Kroeger, CLASI Communications Director /

Federal Lawsuit Alleges Delaware Illegally Denies Education to Incarcerated Students with Disabilities
CLASI and TPM Seek Injunction Requiring State to Address Systemic Failures

WILMINGTON, DE—Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) and public interest law firm Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP (“TPM”) have filed a federal lawsuit asserting that the Delaware Department of Education (“DDOE”) and its Adult and Prison Education Resources Workgroup (“APER”) have for years systemically failed to provide special education services to incarcerated students with disabilities, in violation of federal and state law.

Delaware is required to provide special education and related services to all students with disabilities until the end of the school year in which they reach age 22, including incarcerated students with disabilities, as mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and state law.

However, CLASI’s lawsuit details evidence of widespread failures by DDOE and APER to comply with the law, as these agencies continually deprive students with disabilities of any meaningful education while they are incarcerated. These students often must wait—in some instances for months—before they start receiving any type of educational services. Once they do, the amount of instructional time is woefully inadequate, sometimes only a few hours a week.

These students all qualify for Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”)—plans detailing the specialized instruction needed to ensure students receive an appropriate public education—based on their disabilities, including mental illness and learning disabilities. Yet DDOE and APER do not provide the individualized instruction, behavioral supports, counseling, or psychological services they require to make educational progress.

Delaware students suffer irreparable harm as they languish without any education or receive only minimal, inadequate instruction that is more akin to self-guided study. They fall further and further behind, making it less likely that they will ever earn a high school diploma and develop the skills they need to successfully transition back into their communities. Instead, they are significantly more likely to face unemployment, poverty, and future interactions with the criminal justice system.

“Delaware has been failing incarcerated special education students for decades,” says CLASI Disabilities Law Program Project Director Marissa Band. “Throughout my 16-year career at CLASI, we have encountered students subjected to educational deprivations by DDOE and its APER workgroup, the arm of DDOE responsible for providing special education in Delaware’s prisons. CLASI has filed numerous complaints that succeeded in obtaining orders for DDOE and APER to make changes. Unfortunately, after a few years’ time—when no one is looking—we again receive reports that APER has reverted to failing to provide appropriate special education services to eligible students. It is disheartening that they have been told time and time again that this program is deficient, yet they do nothing. It is time for DDOE and APER to make real, lasting changes.”

CLASI is Delaware’s “Protection & Advocacy” system designated by the Governor to advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities, and it has the responsibility and authority to file lawsuits on their behalf. CLASI has litigated individual cases for incarcerated special education students for decades, and CLASI’s complaint highlights the experiences of three students it recently represented in administrative proceedings with the DDOE. The hearing decisions in these students’ cases can be found here.

Since 1989, CLASI has advocated for incarcerated students and sought reforms to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in Delaware prisons. Most recently, in 2022 and 2023 CLASI attempted to address these issues in a series of communications and meetings with DDOE and the Delaware Department of Correction (“DDOC”), which, together, jointly administer the state’s prison education program, but the systemic problems have continued.

In their complaint filed yesterday, CLASI and TPM request that the District Court of Delaware issue an injunction ordering the DDOE and APER to remedy their ongoing failures, comply with the law, and develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure all students with disabilities receive an appropriate public education while they are involved with the criminal justice system.

Todd Gluckman, Partner at Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP, explains: “Delaware is and has been violating the rights of students with disabilities, who are incarcerated, yet retain their full rights to an education and other related services that they need to access their education, like counseling. Without a high school education, these students are at increased risk to end up back in prison again. CLASI’s complaint shows that these are not isolated problems—Delaware’s entire system for incarcerated students with disabilities is not functioning as required under the law. CLASI’s efforts to try to solve the problems one student at a time have not worked. CLASI is asking the Court for a prompt injunction to require the Delaware agencies to comply with the plain language of the federal and Delaware laws and provide the students with the free appropriate public education that they need.”

A copy of the complaint can be found here.
A copy of the motion for a preliminary injunction can be found here and the proposed preliminary injunction can be found here.


About Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. and the Disabilities Law Program
Founded in 1946, the mission of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) is to combat injustice through creative and persistent civil legal advocacy on behalf of vulnerable and underserved Delawareans. CLASI provides free legal representation to people with disabilities, people aged 60 or over, people with low incomes, and victims of crime and discrimination to help our clients obtain shelter, government benefits, educational services, medical services, orders of protection from abuse, legal immigration status, and other civil legal remedies. CLASI has offices in Wilmington, Dover, and Georgetown, Delaware. To learn more, please visit:

CLASI’s Disabilities Law Program (“DLP”) provides free legal representation to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities to protect them from abuse and neglect and to advocate for their legal rights. The DLP is designated by the Governor as Delaware’s “Protection and Advocacy” system (“P&A”) for people with disabilities. To learn more about the DLP, please visit:

About Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP

Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP (“TPM”) was established in Washington, DC in 1970 as one of the first private public interest law firms in the country. TPM specializes in complex civil rights litigation and has represented individuals and groups in the areas of civil rights, poverty, and environmental law, serving those who could not otherwise afford legal representation. Our cases include advocating for special education access in the District of Columbia for young children and for young adults in correctional facilities, ensuring DC Medicaid recipients, including those with disabilities, have access to services, and pursuing the clean-up of hazardous and other waste sites. Learn more at