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Judge To Weigh DOE Sanctions For Felix Neglect


A federal magistrate is expected to decide this week whether to sanction the state Department of Education after personnel at a Big Island school failed to show up to provide information on special-education services for an 11-year-old student.

At issue is whether the state is providing training to the caregivers of Benedict T., who suffers from attention deficit disorder and a learning disability. The 11-year-old student qualifies for services provided under the Felix consent decree.

Federal Magistrate Leslie Kobayashi said yesterday she will decide whether to issue sanctions after finding Department of Education officials in contempt of court for failing to provide information on Benedict’s education services and for failing to show up at a May 8 hearing.

A behavioral specialist from the Behavioral Counseling and Research Center, principal, a special-ed teacher and others from Kealakehe Middle School were expected to appear in federal court on May 8 to provide an affidavit describing education services provided to Benedict.

Kobayashi said the state was given numerous extensions to be in compliance with Benedict’s education services by providing training to the student’s caregivers.

Representing the Department of Education, Deputy Attorney General Pamela Toguchi said the school had the “child’s best interest in mind. “There has been good faith on my client’s part,” Toguchi said.

“The conduct in this case is so terrible,” attorney Stanley Levin, who is representing Benedict, told a reporter after yesterday’s hearing.
Levin’s paralegal, Bruce Ellis, said outside the courtroom, “There was a delay after delay.”

State education officials provided a reading assessment, tutor, therapeutic aide and a positive behavioral intervention plan for Benedict, Ellis said.

However, training was not provided for Benedict’s mother, aunt or therapeutic aide, he said.

Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, Benedict has been in and out of school because of his behavior, Ellis said, and on May 10 the 11-year-old child was suspended from school after he verbally abused his teacher.

Benedict returned to school after Levin filed a temporary restraining order against Kealakehe Middle School because the school was required to hold a meeting concerning the student’s behavioral problems, Ellis said.

Benedict’s mother, however, permanently removed her son from Kealakehe “so he wouldn’t act out,” Ellis said.