Thursday, October 09, 2008
DOE prevails in post-Felix trial
by Larry Geller
I have to say how sad I am tonight. I’m not a neutral reporter on this. I did hope that the family would prevail. From personal experience as a case manager, I know what it is like for a family to try to get an education in Hawaii for a student with autism, and how much damage the DOE can do. That’s why Felix took a decade to resolve, and why the state was found to be in contempt of court before it was over.
This means that the family will not receive funds that would have provided security for Bryan’s future, even when his parents will not be around to care for him.
During Felix, this family went through hearing after hearing, and this is their second time in court. The DOE did not follow the hearing orders. And this evening the DOE got let off the hook for the damage they did to this one student.
The jury turned its verdict over to the court at 4:15 p.m. today in a plain brown envelope. Inside were the answers to the series of questions that are necessary, taken together, for the family to prove that Bryan's civil rights were violated. The jury agreed with some and not with others, so the DOE won.
The family had the best representation possible. The attorneys and their staff worked very hard, not just during the 4 1/2 weeks the trial was underway, of course, but on the excruciatingly detailed, painstaking preparation that's required to mount a case like this.
Maybe it’s just hard for a jury to understand the complexity of a section 504 case. I don’t know what to think.
There are three more cases scheduled to follow this one. I know the attorneys will carefully analyze and discuss this one for guidance on the others.
Please tell anyone who might ask you about coming to Hawaii with a special needs child that maybe they ought to think very carefully about it. This case may reinforce the DOE in thinking that what they did was ok. That would be tragic for other children.
I was only able to attend a very small part of the trial, but I am happy that Carl, Stan, and Susan were willing to do this, and I can’t imagine how they must be feeling right now. Or Bryan’s parents right now. We are very lucky to have capable attorneys willing to stand for our children’s civil rights, even against the powerful and well-funded Department of Education.
[the earlier article on this case is here.]