The Hawaii Disabilities Rights Center filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights last week asking for an investigation into the treatment of students with disabilities within Hawaii’s public school system.

Specifically, the HDRC cited data showing that the Hawaii Department of Education suspended students with disabilities three times more than students without disabilities and that ad-hoc suspensions—when students are sent home for the day but not registered as being suspended—increase the number of days students with disabilities are absent from class.

The Hawaii Disabilities Rights Center filed a complaint with the US Department of Education asking the federal government to investigate Hawaii’s high rate of suspending students with disabilities. Pictured here is a Waikoloa Middle School class

Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat

This comes after the American Civil Liberties Union published data showing that Hawaii issued more suspensions to students with disabilities, on average, than any other state in the US.

At a press conference Monday, Louis Erteschik, executive director of the HDRC, said that his organization decided to file a complaint with the federal government because the Hawaii DOE failed to produce a plan to curb these suspensions.

“DOE must  have been aware of its high suspension rate for years,” Erteschik said. “However, it has not made public any new programs, policies or studies to address the issue. It has seemingly been completely ignored by DOE … we have attempted to contact DOE to try to determine if it has any plans to address its high suspension rates.  We have received no meaningful response.”

The press conference was jointly held by the HDRC and the ACLU of Hawaii. At the conference, the ACLU of Hawaii announced that it had sent letters to the superintendents in charge of each of Hawaii’s complex areas asking them to take immediate action to reduce the number of suspensions issued to students with disabilities within the schools they oversee.

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About the Author

  • Joel Lau
    Joel Lau is a Civil Beat summer news intern. He grew up on Oahu and graduated from Hawaii Baptist Academy. He is a student at Boston University, majoring in journalism and political science, and plans to return there for his sophomore year in September. Follow him on Twitter @JoelLau808.