State wins round in federal court over furlough Fridays - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State wins round in federal court over furlough Fridays

Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett
Carl Varady Carl Varady

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals Monday upheld Hawaii's public school furlough program against a legal challenge from eight special education students and their parents.

They alleged shutting schools on Furlough Fridays violated their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

"The fact that special needs students are entitled to these services doesn't mean that the state can't adopt a furlough plan. And the court said this furlough plan was in conformance with federal law," State Attorney General Mark Bennett said.

The appeal was to a ruling in US District Court that denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that would get the special needs kids back to school on furlough days.

In the opinion for the court Judge Joseph Farris wrote, "an across the board reduction of school days... doesn't conflict with Congress's intent of protecting disabled children from being singled out."

"I think what the court was concerned about was entering an order that would be an order to send Hawaii kids back to school," said Carl Varady, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Faris wrote the educational setting of disabled children remains the same post furloughs.

The plaintiffs range in age from elementary through high school. They all suffer from autism.

Varady said furlough days have contributed to their conditions regressing.

"When they're out of school and when they're out of that structured environment, they're not working in that same way. and there's a tendency for that to disrupt the progress they've made toward managing their behaviors," he said.

"Even if there is some deficiency it doesn't mean that the state can't adopt furloughs," Bennett countered. "It means that the state must change the services it's providing to individual students."

Varady said he's considering an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

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