Lawyers threaten suit over state of special education services in Hawaii public schools

Attorneys for special education students are threatening to sue the state
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 5:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorneys for special education students are threatening to sue the state, saying access to special education and mental health services has gotten worse since the pandemic.

In a letter to Gov. Josh Green on Wednesday, attorney Eric Seitz said Hawaii is behind the national average when it comes to the percentage of students receiving special education services.

“We find that there’s an arrogance, condescension, and absolute hostility, to providing those services on the part of the leaders of the (Department of Education) and the Department of Health,” he said.

Seitz said that nationwide nearly 10% of all public school students take part in some form of special education program. In Hawaii, only 6.8% receive those services from ages 6 through 21, according to federal data.

Years ago, about 10% of Hawaii students were receiving some form of SPED services, he added.

Seitz and attorneys Paul Alston, Shelby Floyd and Stanley Levin filed the Felix lawsuit in 1993, which made similar claims that the state was denying special education services.

That lawsuit forced the state to spend $1.2 billion over 10 years to upgrade its programs.

The state Attorney General’s office says it hasn’t received the letter, but may provide a response in the future.