Special-needs adults entitled to make up schooling

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HONOLULU (AP) — Attorneys are trying to reach about 1,800 young adults who would be eligible for free educational services that the Hawaii Department of Education failed to provide when they were students.

U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway ordered the state Department of Education to provide the attorneys with names and last-known addresses for every potential member of a class-action lawsuit that challenged a Hawaii law that cut off public education at age 20 for special-needs youth. A 2013 federal appeals court ruling said Hawaii must provide public schooling to disabled students up to age 22.

Stemming from that 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, Mollway ruled last month that the special-education students who didn't earn a high school diploma because they aged out of the system at 20 are entitled to services to make up for the denied schooling.

Mollway's ruling said students covered by the lawsuit "should receive compensatory services to make up for the services missed as a result of that improper determination of eligibility."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs sent letters Monday to 1,424 young adults, but there are at least 350 former students whose addresses are unknown, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://ow.ly/C7EIw ) reported.

"We want to make a particular effort to try to reach these people because they're not going to get one of these letters," Hawaii Disability Rights Center Executive Director Louis Erteschik said. "So for those of you out there who may know students who fit within that range, we hope that you will encourage them to contact us."

The additional services would not involve bringing the adults back to high school, but they will include services such as job training, college courses and independent life-skills training, according to plaintiff attorneys.

The Department of Education does not have an estimate for how much it will cost to provide the services, department spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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