EXCLUSIVE: Dad says state denied daughter special ed services

EXCLUSIVE: Dad says state denied daughter special education services

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's been a bureaucratic nightmare for a Kaneohe man who has battled the Department of Education for nearly two years just to get special education services for his daughter.

Even after his nine-year-old daughter died this past Christmas, Nyle Dolera said the DOE continues to contest her case.

"She's not here but I'm fighting for her," said the retired Honolulu Police Department captain.

"I'm fighting for all these kids who have no voice like Hannah."

Hannah Dolera, who was severely autistic, died in an accidental drowning on Christmas day.

A final report on Hannah's due process proceedings was supposed to be finished at the end of last year but was never completed.

"She was so full of life," said Dolera. "She could look into your eyes and open your heart."

Hannah  attended Puohala Elementary School in Kaneohe but he took her out after she was making little progress. He said he later discovered that teachers strapped his daughter to a chair while she was in class.

"This is Hawaii, we take care of our kids. We take care of our keiki especially the ones who need extra help," he said.

"They should be ashamed of themselves."

Dolera said he moved Hannah to another school in Aina Haina and hired special education therapists at his own expenses. And he says his daughter was beginning to show improvements.

But when Dolera asked the DOE to pay for those services, he said school officials retaliated by barring the girl's therapists from coming onto campus.

"I think they were just afraid they didn't want to pay for (the therapist's) services so they stopped her" from going there, he said.

The law requires the state to provide special education services. But Dolera said he has tried for some time to get reimbursed for the $100,000 he spent on his daughter's care.

That's when he sued the DOE and later filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, which is now reviewing his complaint.

A judge in Dolera's federal lawsuit had this to say of Hannah's case.

"The court is deeply troubled over what happened in this case," wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Kay.

"Unfortunately, plaintiff H.D. (Hannah Dolera), whose claim has been delayed even longer, has died during the pendency of the case."

Hawaii News Now reached out the DOE but they had no comment.

But advocates for special needs students say delays have become more common at the DOE and that more and more parents are getting fed up with the delays.

Each year, the department gets about $40 million in federal funding for special education. Attorney Carl Varady, who represents a number special education students in similar contested cases, believes the department is not spending all of that money on special education services.

"Since furloughs, the Department of Education has taken a much more aggressive opposition in those cases and in general is looking for ways to cut as many services as possible," Varady said.

Meanwhile, Dolera said he will continue his fight against the DOE -- not just for Hannah -- but for other families battling the bureaucracy.

"All you guys have kids. You heard your children say I love you dad," he said.

"I never heard those words. I would give everything to hear those words."

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