To address these challenges, attorneys can advocate for a child at school meetings, and, if
sought by the parent, due process hearings. Attorneys may argue that a child’s struggle with
regular school attendance, especially when it is a departure from a child’s previous school
performance, is a sign that a child is eligible for special education and related services. 176
Attorneys should be well versed and able to distinguish their clients’ cases from Garcia ex rel.
Garcia v. Board of Education of Albuquerque Public Schools, a case where a child was denied
services as a result of attendance issues. 177 In Garcia, the student was eligible for special
education and related services, yet still struggled with class attendance. 178 The court found that
the student was not denied a FAPE because the student failed to attend school even with the
provision of various interventions and services, and thus the student’s truancy was unrelated to
the student’s disability. 179 In making this determination, the court made clear that attendance
could be an indicator of special education and need for services, as “a student’s lack of
enthusiasm, at least in some cases, may be related to his or her disability. Such students are
perhaps most in need of vigilant attention from their schools.” 180 Attendance issues may not only
indicate the existence of CSEC but also that of trauma or anxiety the student experiences in his or
her school environment as a result of a CSEC experience and accompanying mental health needs.
When attorneys are advocating for these children, attorneys should emphasize that interventions
should be tried first, before concluding that the student is not attending, is not available for
learning, and therefore will not benefit from interventions.
In summary, CSEC survivors who develop disabilities as a result of their CSEC
experience are entitled to receive any special education or related service necessary to provide
them with the basic floor of educational opportunity, even when the “floor” of a CSEC survivor
may look substantially different from those a school is accustomed to creating. 181 Parents and
educational decision makers, working together with special education attorneys, can advocate for
CSEC survivors by making sure schools are educated on CSEC and by using evaluations and data
regarding a child’s experience to build a case for having the child’s needs met pursuant to
existing strategies under the IDEA.
V. RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUMMARY
This Article offers advocacy strategies and resources for individual attorneys, specifically
GALs and special education attorneys, illustrating what CSEC cases look like, and how zealous,
client-centered advocacy can be used to create a safety net for a child on a case-by-case basis.
There are several tools available to attorneys: educated and informed client interviewing skills,
thoughtful case planning, advocacy in criminal court and other court forums, special education
advocacy to secure school-based services as needed, as well as strategies on how to work with
and build a team for a child that recognizes the child’s experiences and needs as a result of these
Given the many obstacles to identifying CSEC and implementing appropriate
interventions, however, systemic change is crucial. All systems working with exploited children
(including schools, courts and social service agencies) must stand ready to assist these children
176 Cari Rae S., 158 F. Supp. 2d at 1195.
177 Garcia, 2007 WL 5023652, at *2.
179 Id. at *12.
180 Garcia v. Bd. of Educ. of Albuquerque Pub. Sch., 520 F.3d 1116, 1127 (10th Cir. 2008).