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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2010

Appeals court affirms ruling denying furlough Friday injunction

Advertiser Staff

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed a ruling that protects Hawaii's teacher furlough program against a federal legal challenge by a group of special education students and their parents.

In its 20-page decision, the Court of Appeals said: "To allow the stay-put provisions to apply in this instance would be essentially to give the parents of disabled children veto power over a state's decision regarding the management of its schools.

"The (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) did not intend to strip administrative powers away from local school boards and give them to parents of individual children, and we do not read it as doing so."

Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima originally ruled in November that while special education students might suffer "irreparable harm" because of teacher furloughs, ordering schools to reopen would cause more harm than good to the overall public interest.

The request for an injunction against furlough Fridays was brought on behalf of seven families with special education students at five schools.

Lawyers for the group argued that the furloughs violated Individual Education Plans for disabled students.

IEPs are federally mandated agreements between parents of special needs students and the state. The contracts are drawn up on an individual basis for about 17,000 special education students and typically specify the number of hours a student should receive of therapeutic services, such as speech therapy, skills training, occupational therapy of counseling.