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Update on landmark damages cases
in Hawaii - state and public school staff treated child with
"deliberate indifference" - damages
Subscribers as of June 20, 2001: 26,126
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Last week, we advised subscribers about a decision in the case of Amber Nahale, a young child with autism who needs intensive ABA/Lovaas therapy. U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled that parents of special needs children may be entitled to damages from the state for out-of-pocket money spent on their children, lost income and even emotional distress.
Since last week, there have been several new developments in Hawaii.
JUNE 18, 2001
On June 18, in Stephen L., et. al. v. LeMahieu, Judge Ezra ruled that the state Department of Education demonstrated "deliberate indifference" toward the needs of this child with Down syndrome who attended public school for 16 years and allowed for an award of damages.
Stanley Levin, the Honolulu attorney who represents the parents and child,said the school administrators were aware of the problems but did nothing to remedy them.
Mr. Levin reported that the child, now 19 years old, stopped making progress in school more than six years ago and was "warehoused" in a self contained class during these years.
"Instead of building on the boy's enthusiasm for sports and his participation in Special Olympics," school personnel made no effort "to ensure that Aaron could travel to the gym class."
The boy's mother learned that he was not participating in gym when she found her son hiding in the bushes at school, crying.
"The gym teacher didn't even know his name," Levin said.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin: "State found negligent in education of disabled student - Ruling means a jury will decide the damage amount."
JUNE 19, 2001
A Hawaii legislative committee announced plans to investigate how the state was spending money to comply with the consent decree. The committee will subpoena two agents of the federal court.
2. Background Of Hawaii Damages Cases
We've received many requests for information about the Hawaii cases. Thanks to our subscribers and some Internet research, we are able to put together some pieces of this fascinating story.
In 1993, a lawsuit was brought against the state on behalf of the Felix family, alleging that the state was violating federal law by not providing appropriate special education and mental health services to children with disabilities who attended public schools. Eric Seitz was the attorney who represented the Felix family.
In 1994, Hawaii acknowledged to the federal court that it had failed to provide necessary services to a class of children who were entitled to, but not receiving special education and related mental health services.
OCTOBER 1994. An out-of-court settlement was reached and Judge David Ezra approved the Felix Consent Decree. The state agreed to improve services in six years, by June 30, 2000. The Plaintiff Class is "all children and adolescents with disabilities residing in Hawaii, from birth to 20 years of age who are eligible for and in need of education and mental health services."
MARCH 1998. State revised their plan to implement Felix consent decree.
MAY 2000. Judge Ezra found Hawaii
in contempt for not improving services
AUGUST 2000. Judge Ezra extends deadline - state must comply fully by December 31, 2001.
JANUARY 2001. An audit by the Center for the Study of Youth Policy at the University of Pennsylvania found that the state's focus was on getting the consent decree lifted, less concerned about whether services are effective and whether Felix children are making progress.
3. New Article About Section 504, ADA & Education Reform
Are you confused about Section 504? What are the benefits of Section 504?
We added "Section 504, the ADA, and Education Reform" to our site. This Information Brief was prepared by the PEER Project, a project of the Federation for Children with Special Needs.
You will learn key concepts under
Section 504 and the ADA:
In a section entitled "Key Legal Concepts and Standards -Based Education Reform," you will learn about using standards as a strategy for reform.
4. New At Wrightslaw - IEP Quiz, Topics Page
* IEP Quiz *
More than 2,000 subscribers have taken our new IEP Quiz in the past couple of weeks. Did you take the Quiz? Do you have the answers?
* New Topics Page *
To get information about dozens
of topics, from autism and assessment to retaliation and teacher
rights, please visit our new Topics