The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN A. NORDBERG
Plaintiffs are twenty-three individual school-aged pretrial detainees in the Cook County Jail. Plaintiffs allege they have either been denied complete access to regular and special educational services during their period of pretrial detention, or have received services vastly inferior to those provided non-detainees. Plaintiffs claim their condition violates the substantive and procedural components of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, as well as Illinois law.
Plaintiffs' complaint groups their claims against defendants
into three categories. Count I states a claim in favor of those plaintiffs deprived of special educational services, alleging violations of federal constitutional and statutory law. Count II states a similar claim on behalf of plaintiffs deprived of regular educational services, alleging violations of the United States Constitution and Illinois law. Count III invokes the court's supplemental jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, stating a violation of 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12 (West 1992). Plaintiffs have requested declaratory and injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees.
Before the court is State of Illinois defendants' motion to dismiss. Defendants challenge plaintiffs' assertion of cognizable constitutional right to educational services, and the right of plaintiffs in need of special educational services to sue under IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act.
It is uncontested that there is no explicit protection of a right to education under the federal constitution. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 35, 36 L. Ed. 2d 16, 93 S. Ct. 1278 (1982). Nor is education a fundamental right requiring a state to demonstrate a compelling necessity for every variation in the manner in which education is provided to its population. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 223, 72 L. Ed. 2d 786, 102 S. Ct. 2382 (1982).
However, the Supreme Court has never definitively stated whether a minimally adequate education is a fundamental right, or whether a statute that discriminates in that area is accorded heightened equal protection review. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 285, 92 L. Ed. 2d 209, 106 S. Ct. 2932 (1986). In Rodriguez, the court opined that it was possible, though doubtful, that a minimal level of education is a constitutionally protected prerequisite to the meaningful exercise of First Amendment rights. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 35-37. In Plyler, the court indicated that the deprivation of basic educational services must be rationally related to a substantial goal of the state, Plyler, 457 U.S. at 224, a somewhat higher standard of review than that normally imposed in the absence of a suspect classification or fundamental right. See Lawline v. American Bar Association, 956 F.2d 1378, 1385 (7th Cir. 1992) (must be rationally related to legitimate state interest).
Plaintiffs' complaint alleges only approximately 39% of those school age pretrial detainees in need of special educational services were receiving them. Further, they were not being taught courses other than reading and math, did not have textbooks, workbooks or other instructional materials, and were not given learning disability assessment and instruction. The complaint also alleges that as of October, 1991, some 1,470 school age pretrial detainees in the Cook County Jail were not receiving any kind of educational services, and what instructional services there were were limited to the areas of reading and math. These are not legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286, but serious factual allegations of a lack of instruction on even the educational basics, or worse, a total lack of instruction altogether. Taking these allegations to be true, which the court must, Bethlehem Steel Corp. v. Bush, 918 F.2d 1323, 1326 (7th Cir. 1990), the court cannot say that no relief could be granted plaintiffs. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984). Plaintiffs' complaint states a claim under the substantive component of the Due Process clause.
Plaintiffs' complaint states a valid claim under the Equal Protection clause as well. The court does not doubt that maintaining prison security, the justification provided by defendants for their failure to provide pretrial detainees the educational services given to children in free society, is a legitimate, or even substantial, state interest. Cf. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 546-47, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979). However there must still be a rational relationship between defendants' alleged actions and this interest to justify the disparity in treatment. Such a relationship is not difficult to establish, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Ward, 470 U.S. 869, 881, 84 L. Ed. 2d 751, 105 S. Ct. 1676 (1985). Nevertheless if defendant's action are sufficiently unrelated to any combination of legitimate purposes, or the relationship between them is sufficiently attenuated as to render the disparity arbitrary, no rational relationship has been shown. Nordlinger v. Hahn, 120 L. Ed. 2d 1, 112 S. Ct. 2326, 2332 (1992); Gregory v. Ashcroft, 115 L. Ed. 2d 410, 111 S. Ct. 2395, 2406 (1991).
In this case, defendants have done little to establish such a rational relationship. Their basic argument is that "if inmates could sue in federal court that a particular service they receive (or are denied) does not "equal" what they could get in the free community, this too would result in chaos." In the first place, this argument does not relate to the state's interest in maintaining prison security, but the state's desire to be free of prisoner litigation. In the second, the Fourteenth Amendment does not require absolute equality or precisely equal advantages. Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600, 612, 41 L. Ed. 2d 341, 94 S. Ct. 2437 (1974) (quoting Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 24). Apocryphal claims of burdensome litigation do not justify disparate treatment under the Equal Protection Clause.
In French v. Heyne, 547 F.2d 994 (7th Cir. 1976), the Seventh Circuit was faced with an equal protection challenge by Indiana prison inmates to an Indiana Department of Corrections decision to limit vocational training to inmates with short indeterminate sentences. The court noted that defendants had failed to explain or articulate the bases for the distinctions drawn in the prison vocational training program and, although it envisioned what some purposes for the distinctions might be, declared:
We cannot indulge in supplying an imaginary purpose or basis for the classification, McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 277, 35 L. Ed. 2d 282, 93 S. Ct. 1055 (1973), and thereby preclude plaintiffs from showing that such an "apparent" basis does not actually exist. McGowan ...