Youth with Disabilities and Juvenile Justice System to be focus of conference co-founded by Social Work's Heather McCabe

What happens when a young person with intellectual disabilities responds in an unexpected way in school? Too often, advocates say, the unanticipated reaction leads to a situation where the police are called for assistance and the student ends up in the juvenile justice system.

The net result is youth with disabilities are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, according to Heather A. McCabe, a lawyer and an Assistant Professor at the Indiana University School of Social Work and Dr. Steven M. Koch, School Psychologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Riley Child Development Center.

Heather McCabeNow McCabe and Koch hope to address that issue at the 9th Annual Conference on Health, Disability and the Law entitled: Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System,” to be held at the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, on June 17th. The conference will bring together national and state experts, as well as families of children with disabilities to discuss how to reduce the number of children with disabilities ending up in the juvenile justice system as well as what can be done to support those that do.

Cosponsors of the conference include the Hall Center for Law and Health, Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis; Riley Child Development Center, Indiana University School of Medicine; Indiana University School of Social Work, and the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force.

“The goals of the conference are to educate people what issues might arise for kids with disabilities that would land them in the juvenile system and what supports might be out there to keep that from happening,” said McCabe, who along with Koch are co-founders of the annual conference.

Among the speakers at the conference will be:

  • Dr. Judith Storandt, the National Disability Rights Network’s (NDRN) specialist for criminal justice and juvenile justice issues will speak on “Dirty Little Secrets: A National Overview of Juvenile Justice.” Before joining NDRN in 2005, she was the Advocate General for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for six years.  “She is both an attorney who deals with issues of disability nationally and is a parent of a child who has development issues,” McCabe noted.
  • The Honorable Steven C. Teske, Associate Judge with the Juvenile Court System in Georgia will speak on “Protecting Youth with Disabilities from Zero Tolerance Policies.” Judge Teske is known for his work in Clayton County, Ga. for reducing the “school house to jail house track.” Judge Teske has served as the President of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges; he was appointed to the Board of the Governor’s Children and Youth Coordinating Council and has served as the representative for the state of Georgia on the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice for the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile and Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  • There will also be a panel discussion on “Where do we go from here? Placement decisions, disabilities, and funding.” It will be moderated by Bill Glick, Executive Director of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, with members including Dee Kempson, Indiana Department of Education, Michael Dempsey, Indiana Department of Correction and Dave Judkins, Indiana Department of Child Services.

The idea for the conference started as a student project when McCabe was in law school. She sought out the help of Koch, who at the time was the training director for the Child Development Center, an interdisciplinary training center at Riley Hospital for Children.  “One of the things we were trying to do was find other ways to incorporate students from the School of Law into what we were doing,” Koch explained.

Steven KochThe response to the first conference was strong enough that Koch and McCabe decided to hold such a conference yearly and bring people from various professional backgrounds together to add a depth and scope to the discussions that might not otherwise be available. “We are trying to see how we can work together to meet common goals for the kids,” Koch said. Another aspect of the conference is the contributions families can make, McCabe said. “This provides a forum for families to hear from professionals and more importantly for professionals to hear from families.”

To register for the conference online, go to . Continuing education credits are available to those who attend the conference. The conference fee is $75 for professional and those requiring continuing education. For parents and students, the fee is $25. For more information about the conference, call 317-274-1912.

Media contacts:

Heather McCabe at 317-274-8376 or at

Steven M. Koch at 317—944-8167 or at

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
(317) 278-0303