A federal court has ordered the Hawaii Department of Education to provide additional educational services to as many as 1,800 students whose special education services were illegally cut off at age 20.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states must provide a “free and appropriate public education” for students ages 3 to 21, although they must only provide FAPE for students ages 3-5 and 18-21 if it would be consistent with state law or practice.
In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down a 2010 law that created the 20-year age cutoff, on the grounds that the state could not provide traditional education services for an additional two years while not providing similar opportunities for student with disabilities.
Subsequently, the 9th Circuit remanded the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, which in August found that the students cut off during the time period when the law was in effect are entitled to free compensatory education services.
The Hawaii Disability Rights Center and Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, who represented the plaintiffs, have already sent out letters to more than 1,400 students entitled to services. They are still trying to find addresses for at least 350 of the students.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for these class members to receive free supplementary educational opportunities and life-skills training to lead more independent lives,” said Paul Alston, an attorney for Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, in a news release from September 29.
The Hawaii Disability Rights Center and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of DisAbility Rights Galaxy, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.