Family of autistic McKinley High School student sues over claims son is being forced to graduate

Family of autistic McKinley High School student sues over claims son is being forced to graduate

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While graduating is a joyful time for most, it's the focus of a lawsuit for the family of a McKinley High School student.

The 19-year-old student, Anthony, is autistic and his family says he's being forced to graduate before he's ready.

Under federal law, students with disabilities can receive educational services until they're 22.

The family at the center of the lawsuit, who asked that their last names not be used, say they wanted to tell their story to help others who might be in the same situation.

The autistic student's parents argue the state hasn't provided Anthony with the skills he needs to function in the community.

Anthony was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. McKinley High says it's time for him to graduate. His parents disagree.

"What the school is supposed to do is provide a bridge and to provide the support in place to be able to transition him from high school into post-high school activities and McKinley High School failed to do that," said his mother, Linda.

Anthony's parents filed their lawsuit Wednesday. Carl Varady, the family's lawyer, said the state isn't following the law.

"These parents were more akamai and understood their services were going to end and they took these steps in order to make sure that Anthony can participate in adult society to the best of his abilities," he said.

Linda added, "If we don't advocate for him, or if we don't do it for him, he can't do it himself. He has no voice, he has no say, he's just gonna slip through the cracks."

In a statement, the state Department of Education said that "each special education student works under an Individualized Education Program developed between the school and parents. Students' growth is a collaborative effort between parents and teachers, where students learn life skills at home and lessons at school."

The DOE added, "It's very unusual for an issue to be raised just before graduation, as parents meet with the school at least once monthly to discuss progress and make adjustments as needed throughout the process over many years."

Linda says all she wants is what's best for her child.

"That's something that every parent thinks about, what's gonna happen to your child after you're gone. This is a special needs child. He can't take care of himself. He can't cross the street by himself. He can't fill out an application," she said.

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