When Laurie Kahiapo arrived to pick up her 20-year old autistic son up from school one day in 2010, she found him unconscious.

Jeremiah Kahiapo, a special education student at Kailua High School, had collapsed after he was forced to run on a treadmill. Now, Hawaii taxpayers are expected to pay $30,000 to his parents.

David and Laurie Kahiapo sued the state and the Department of Education on behalf of their son, alleging the incident caused all three of them emotional trauma.

Kailua High School

Jeremiah Kahiapo was a special education student at Kailua High School.

The civil case ended in a $30,000 settlement with the state. Currently, the Legislature is in the process of deciding whether to approve the claim, one of dozens that will cost taxpayers this legislative session.

The Attorney General’s Office recommended that the Legislature pass House Bill 896, which would allocate funding for the settlements, and its approval is virtually certain.

The suit stated that when Laurie Kahiapo came to pick up her son from school that day, he was being dragged by his teacher and other school staff members because he had fainted.

“I’ve never seen him in that shape, he couldn’t even acknowledge that I was there,” Laurie Kahiapo told Civil Beat on Monday.

She said that her son had been forced to run three miles on a treadmill in 25 minutes twice that day. The suit alleged that Jeremiah was also forced to “pull a weighted suitcase across campus, dressed in a jacket, latex gloves and a weighted backpack.”

When Kahiapo collapsed after running on the treadmill, the school nurse aide was not called, according to the Attorney General’s Office’s written testimony on HB 896.

Laurie Kahiapo asked an education assistant at the school to call an ambulance. Her son was taken to Castle Medical Center, where she was later informed that he passed out because of low blood sugar and hypoglycemia, which can be caused by intense exercise and fatigue, the lawsuit states.

The Kahiapos claimed that no one ever explained why their son was forced to run on a treadmill until he collapsed.

“My heart just broke for (Jeremiah), how could a human being do that to someone who was disabled… and unable to defend themselves?” Laurie Kahiapo said.

The attorney general’s testimony stated school staff members made Kahiapo exercise to combat “extreme” behaviors, like tantrums. Anne Lopez of the Attorney General’s office declined to comment further on the case.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, the Department of Education’s communications director, also declined to comment on the case. But she did say that each Individualized Education Program designed for a student with disabilities, determines what services are most appropriate.


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