Felix ConsentA federal consent decree aimed at improving educational and mental health services for Hawaii public school special needs students will continue until Dec. 31, 2001, with further court oversight for 18 months after that date, a federal judge ruled today.
The state must comply
fully by Dec. 31, 2001,
Judge Ezra declares
By Crystal Kua
U.S. District Judge David Ezra said he was to sign an order today that would resolve the remaining issues in the so-called Felix Consent Decree to carry the state to compliance.
"There'll be no mistake here made about the court's resolve to see this matter to an appropriate conclusion," Ezra said.
"This is it until someone reports problems," special master Jeff Portnoy said.
Under the court's ruling:
By June 30, 2001, the state must have the capacity, resources and infrastructure in place to serve children covered by the consent decree. Twenty-four school complexes -- or two-thirds of high schools and the schools that feed into them -- must be in compliance.The decree is named for Jennifer Felix, whose 1993 lawsuit alleged the state was violating federal law that requires adequate mental health, educational and other services to special needs children.
By Oct. 31, 2001 all school complexes must be in substantial compliance with the remaining two months to wrap up issues.
For 18 months following Dec. 31, 2001, the state must show that it can sustain and maintain necessary services and personnel resources.
While the court-appointed monitor in the case recommended that the state be fined $1,000 a day each time it misses certain kinds of benchmarks, the court's order will give the judge sole discretion for determining sanctions.
Ezra said that giving the state the option of paying a fine of $1,000 a day versus not complying with an expensive benchmark would give the state the wrong message.
"Compliance must take place regardless of cost," Ezra said today.
Ezra in May found the state in contempt for failing to comply with the consent decree by June 30.
Today's hearing originally was scheduled to be part of a series of hearings that Ezra has called to decide the best and quickest course of action for the state Departments of Health and Education to take toward compliance.
The court had been expected to resolve issues where the plaintiffs and the state have not been able.
But Ezra announced this morning that both sides, along with court-monitor Ivor Groves, had reached an agreement that would resolve the remaining issues.
Ezra said the state must meet all new benchmarks set by the court.