CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT REACHED IN CASE FILED BY SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS AGAINST THE STATE OF HAWAI`I DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
News Release from Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, June 14, 2018
HONOLULU, HI – 495 young adults from Hawai`i will soon be receiving compensatory education and education-related services thanks to the recent settlement of a class action lawsuit against the State of Hawai`i Department of Education (“DOE”). The case was filed by the Hawaii Disability Rights Center and the Honolulu law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), special education students must be permitted to remain in school and receive services until they either earn a regular high school diploma or reach age 22. Nonetheless, in 2010, Hawai`i lawmakers approved legislation barring enrollment of students who were aged 20 or older on the first day of school in a given year.
Louis Erteschik, Executive Director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, stated, “Once we identified that the State had taken this illegal action, we went to court to protect the rights of these special education students who deserved to be treated better by the DOE.” This case forced the DOE to follow the IDEA, and the settlement gets services to those students who were not allowed to stay in school while the unlawful DOE policy was in effect.
In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the DOE’s reliance on the Hawai`i statute to dismiss special education students from school was illegal under the IDEA. In 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i ruled that the special education students who were not provided continuing education and transition services through age 22 are entitled to free compensatory education and related services. And in December 2017, the parties reached a settlement under which the class members will receive the compensatory education or education-related services to which they are entitled.
A $10.25 million fund has been created by the State of Hawai`i to pay for the services. The fund is being overseen by Hawai`i Supreme Court Associate Justice James E. Duffy, Jr. (Ret.), who has been named as the Settlement Administrator. He will work closely with attorneys at Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing and the Hawaii Disability Rights Center to ensure that the goal of making up for the services the class members should have received from the DOE is met. According to Paul Alston of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, “This class action settlement is a wonderful opportunity for class members to receive free supplementary educational opportunities and life-skills training to enable them to lead more independent lives.”
For more information regarding this settlement, including copies of court filings and instructions for eligible class members to participate in the settlement, please visit http://hawaiiclassaction.com/erk/ or call the settlement hotline at (808) 441-6268.
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