In Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, there are nine families fighting to keep school open for special education and other needs even though the state plans to close them for the day. Two lawsuits are currently pending on behalf of these students in an effort to keep public schools open even though the state had plans to furlough teachers on 17 Fridays over the next few months.
The parents filing the lawsuits want to keep their children in school and around their classmates during these furlough days and hope to have their case heard by Judge David Ezra in the U.S. District Court. They are hoping to get a temporary injunction in place. This lawsuit states that the state has “violated the procedural safeguards” in place through the federal law that protect and prohibit unilateral modifications for any type of special education and related services.
Another lawsuit, filed by attorney Eric A. Seitz is also scheduled to be heard and is on behalf of regular, special education and charter school students in the state. The lawsuits state that Hawaii is breaking the state’s obligation to provide 180 days of education, five days per week to Hawaii students. The class action lawsuit, on behalf of all students in the state, states that the furloughs disproportionately affect some racial groups and certain classes specifically.
Although the state’s Department of Education claims that they have yet to see the lawsuit, Attorney General Mark Bennett believes the lawsuits are without merit. The state Board of Education has welcomed the lawsuits because their goal is to restore educational days to the students. Through the publicity from such an action, the school board hopes that this will force the governor and the Legislature to find the necessary funding.
The new contract signed by the state Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association requires there to be 17 furlough days in the current school year and the coming school year. The amount of money these days would save has yet to be noted, however the goal is the cost savings to be put towards the $127 million cut that the department is facing after the state’s budget shortfall.
If you are a school district administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.