State to provide homeless children equal access to public school

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's homeless children will have equal access to a public education.  That's a settlement agreement approved by a Honolulu district court judge Tuesday.

The landmark lawsuit, Kaleauti v. Tonda, brought by a statewide class of homeless children and their parents against the Hawaii Department of Education and Board of Education, will benefit thousands of Hawaii children.

Under the agreement, the State is required to provide school buses for children on the Leeward Coast, the highest density of homeless area in the state, supply bus passes, and modify existing school bus routes.

The DOE will also be required to offer mileage reimbursement for parents who wish to drive their children to school.

"It's been a long road, but I'm glad we've finally reached an agreement," said Olive Kaleuati, a named Plaintiff.  "Hopefully DOE will do its part so that all homeless children will benefit."

Alice Greenwood, a homeless advocate and also a named Plaintiff said, "All I ever wanted was for my son to have the same education as everyone else.  I hope things will be better now."

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in October 2007, charged that Hawaii schools have forced homeless children to change schools multiple times in a single year, denied them the ability to enroll and refused to allow them access to safe school transportation.