1,800 YOUNG ADULTS MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR COMPENSATORY EDUCATION SERVICES IN HAWAI`I
Help requested to find more than 350 without updated contact information
HONOLULU September 30, 2014 – The Hawaii Disability Rights Center and Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing (AHFI) have launched a search for young adults who were denied services by the State of Hawai`i Department of Education (DOE).
The DOE identified 1,800 class members who may be entitled to free compensatory education services under a recent federal district court order. Letters are being mailed to the 1,424 young adults for whom the DOE has addresses. There are at least 350 young adults who are entitled to compensatory education for whom the DOE does not have current contact information.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students are allowed to continue in school until they earn a regular high school diploma or age-out at 22. In 2010, the state passed a law to bar enrollment of students who were 20 or older on the first day of school. A suit (E.R.K. v. DOE) was brought against the DOE for violating the IDEA and denying a Free Appropriate Public Education to students in special education aged 20 and 21.
In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the DOE’s reliance on a Hawai`i statute to age-out special education students before they earned a high school diploma or turned 22 was illegal under IDEA. Last month, the federal district court ruled that students who were not provided continuing education and transition services through age 22 are entitled to free compensatory education. These services are intended to complement and not supplant services these young adults may already be receiving.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for these class members to receive free supplementary educational opportunities and life-skills training to lead more independent lives,” said Paul Alston, AHFI President and attorney for the plaintiffs.
“Yellow letters have been sent to everyone for whom we have contact information, but we know there are more eligible students. If you, or a family member, aged 22 to 26, received special education services, and left school for any reason without receiving a high school diploma, please contact us,” urged Louis Erteschik, HDRC Executive Director.
“We are working with the DOE and the Court to ensure that proper transition services are provided to these young adults,” explained Alston, “but, we need to find them.”
Debbie Kobayakawa, a parent advocate, professed the benefit of transition services: “Transition services provided my son the foundation for his success today. He is able to work and live independently and I urge anyone who may be eligible to call and take advantage of these free services.”
AHFI attorney Michelle Comeau noted, “We encourage anyone seeking more information about this case or the services available to visit www.hawaiiclassaction.com/ERK.” In addition to the website, potential beneficiaries may email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 441-6268 or (808) 949-2922.
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