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Intervention gets services for held-back Mississippi teenager


At the age of 15, Josh is only an 8th-grader in the Holmes County, Miss., school system.

Despite failing the 4th, 5th and 7th grades, the school district did not evaluate him for special education classes. When he was finally evaluated, he had developed behavioral problems and was accused of threatening the principal.

Even after the evaluation, Josh was still assigned to some regular classes without any special education services – despite having an IQ of only 52 and a severe language disorder.

"This is an example of how the most vulnerable children have been neglected by school systems and left to fend for themselves," said Bear Atwood, director of the SPLC's Mississippi Youth Justice Project (MYJP).

Despite this hardship, Josh had only two disciplinary incidents on his record. He was suspended for an argument with a girl after she picked on him about his disability.

The second suspension came after he threatened the principal.

The MYJP filed an administrative complaint against the Holmes County School District that has resulted in the district's agreeing to a comprehensive plan that ensures students such as Josh are identified and given the educational services required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.

MYJP is aggressively working with parents and the courts to ensure the agreement is enforced.

"The longer these children are neglected, the harder it becomes to undo the damaging effects," Atwood said.

Editor's note: Josh's name has been changed to protect his identity.