Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

All public schools in compliance with Felix decree

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawai'i public schools reached a milestone this month as all campuses came into provisional or full compliance with the Felix consent decree.

"We are meeting the challenge to improve special education and related mental health services for our students," said Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto.

Advertiser library photo

That 1994 agreement has imposed federal court oversight on Hawai'i's system of special education for nearly a decade, dominating the education agenda and forcing hundreds of millions in spending.

"We are meeting the challenge to improve special education and related mental health services for our students," said Superintendent Pat Hamamoto. "The continuing challenge is to sustain those services and ensure that all students receive the attention and assistance they require to succeed."

The Wai'anae and Lana'i complexes — two areas that have been perennially difficult for the Department of Education to staff with qualified special-education teachers — recently passed the first hurdle of compliance.

They were the last of the state's 41 school complexes, defined as high schools and their feeder elementary and middle schools, to reach provisional compliance. Both complexes still have to give a presentation that shows how they will sustain the level of service to students.

Plaintiffs attorney Eric Seitz said the work to get all of the schools into compliance, particularly those in remote areas, has been monumental. "I think those are good signs and wonderful developments," Seitz said. "We have a system in place. We have somebody to monitor it. We have to make sure that what's been achieved is maintained."

The consent decree ended a 1993 lawsuit by the families of Maui student Jennifer Felix and other children, which charged that the state's special-education services were abysmal and did not meet federal law.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge David Ezra has appointed Felix Monitoring Project Executive Director Juanita Iwamoto to replace Ivor Groves as an interim monitor over the case. Groves stepped down from his position as court monitor earlier this year.