No, but DOC and the Department of Education (DOE) are required to provide school to Young Adults in custody who request it. Per Title 9 of New York State law, DOC/DOE must provide Young Adults who opt in to school a minimum of three daily hours of education during the school week. East River Academy (ERA) serves students between the ages of 18 and 21 who are on Rikers Island.
DOE’s East River Academy is the primary provider of educational services for Young Adults in DOC’s custody. Classes for the Young Adult population are held in several school areas across the Department of Correction. The two primary school areas for Young Adult education are located in the Robert N. Davoren Complex and DOE operates smaller schools at EMTC, GRVC, NIC, OBCC, and RMSC.
The Young Adult average daily enrollment in school increased 71% from 176 in September 2018 to 301 in June 2019 and average daily attendance increased 11% from an average of 47 Young Adults attending school daily in September to 52 in June.
An increase in the average daily enrollment outpaced the average daily attendance, contributing to the attendance rate drop. YA attendance rates decreased from 39% in September 2018 to 27% in June 2019.
From September 2018 to June 2019, RNDC, DOC’s YA facility, had a greater decrease in attendance rates (from 43% to 27%) compared to YAs attending school in all other DOC facilities combined (from 36% to 26%). An increase in YA enrollment also contributed to a drop in the attendance.
Education for YAs in DOC custody is also governed by a federal court decision made in 2000 that arose from a class action lawsuit–Handberry v. Thompson. In 1996, youth in custody between the ages of 16 and 21 brought the lawsuit against the DOC, DOE, and various city officials alleging their failure to provide educational services to young people on Rikers. The Court ordered the City to create a plan that provides access to educational services and facilities to the 16 to 21-year-old population on Rikers Island. Additionally, the Court appointed a monitor to report on the implementation of the City’s compliance with the consent decree.
The Special Master’s July 2018 report outlines that:
education services. The quality of special education services for 18 to 21-year-old
students in restrictive housing is compromised by late arrivals and early dismissals.
The Special Master’s July 2018 report also outlines the major reasons behind the lack of educational access for YAs, including: (1) Early dismissals; (2) Late arrivals and untimely escorts to class; (3) YAs not willing to attend class; (4) Conflicts with other scheduled services or specialized activities; (5) Facility lockdowns; and (6) Lack of communication between staff and young adults.