The ACLU and an alliance of organizations are suing the county over its administration of the Challenger Memorial Youth Center for youths on probation, where education mandates are ignored and kids are neglected, the groups allege.

The suit contends that the Lancaster school's 650 children often come out of its educational program without even being able to fill out a job application. In one instance, the ACLU states, a teen was “awarded a high school diploma despite being unable to read or write.” “The students at Challenger deserve, and are legally entitled to, an education,” said Laura Faer, director of the Children's Rights Project at Public Counsel Law Center. “What they get instead is abuse, retaliation and needless punishment.”

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Tuesday, names the Los Angeles County Probation Department, the county's education superintendent, the director of the county Office of Education's juvenile court schools, and Challenger's principal.

The suit argues that, even though the pupils are on probation, they have a right to be educated and that, in some cases, the campus has actually charged the state for educating pupils that came out of the school without any discernible basic skills.

“The conscience-shocking practices at Challenger are among the most egregious failures to deliver education and rehabilitative services to incarcerated youth ever documented in the nation, turning out juveniles who are functionally illiterate, unable to fill out job applications or medical forms, read menus or newspapers or vote in elections,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California.

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