Saturday, September 26, 2009


HSTA furlough agreement vs. special ed

by Larry Geller

Special education students have one thing regular ed students don’t: an individualized education plan that the parents work out with the school and which must then, under federal law, be followed exactly. (Wouldn’t it be great if every student had an individualized education plan?)

How does that fit with furlough days? In some cases there might be no problem, but in others there will be. This should be explored. If the DOE simply ignores the issue, it will not simply go away. It could go to federal court.

To the best of my knowledge (and I’m not an attorney, of course), it is not legit to call a meeting to cut services previously agreed. So you see the problem.

I understand there may be another story on this in tomorrow’s (Sunday’s) Star-Bulletin. That would be a good step in gaining DOE attention to the disruption that furlough days will create for probably hundreds of students out of the thousands receiving special ed.

Update: The Star-Bulletin article today (Sunday 9/27/2009) included this:

Critics point out that students in special education will have more difficulty adjusting to the 17-day furlough.

"This is going to keep them back. It's going to be hard catching up," said Naomi Grossman, vice president of the Autism Society of Hawaii.

Grossman said the simple disruption of scheduled services can present a problem for some autistic children.

"One of the worst things you can do with a kid with autism is to change the services without them understanding it. What we're trying to do ... is to remove distractions and be consistent so they're open to learning," she said.

Grossman said when there is a break in learning for three days, the children sometimes need psychological counseling to readjust to school.

Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, a lead attorney in a landmark case requiring the state to provide special services for students with learning disabilities, said he and his clients are still deciding if they will file a lawsuit.

"We haven't decided what we're going to do, and we're going to make a determination by ... (early this) week," Seitz said.

The “landmark case” was of course Felix v. Waihee. The two lead attorneys were Shelby Floyd and Eric Seitz. Towards the end of the case, it was reported that the two attorneys were not always in agreement in their approach to the DOE (see for example, Felix lawyers disagree on contempt, 5/26/2000).

As a result of the Star-Bulletin coverage, at least some people in the DOE may now be thinking of what to do about the problem that their acceptance of the furlough plan has created for special needs students.



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