Deal close on homeless students’ suit
What ever happened to the lawsuit alleging the state Department of Education failed to provide homeless students with an adequate education?
Answer: The Education Department changed its enrollment and transportation forms and began training school staff to ensure parents of homeless students know their rights, said Assistant Superintendent Daniel Hamada.
Lawyers for three homeless families who sued the Education Department in October are reviewing the new procedures and hope to settle out of court as early as next week.
"We are in pretty serious negotiation to try and settle the case," said Lawyers for Equal Justice attorney William Durham, who filed the suit with the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's promising."
U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor, who sided with the homeless families in a ruling in February, ordered the Education Department to revise enrollment forms and computer registration programs to better identify, track and transport homeless students as required under federal law.
Hamada said 16 school liaisons recently hired also will assist homeless families.
"We fulfilled the mandate of the judge," he said. "We made it, I guess, more transparent (on) how to support a parent and/or family that comes in and is maybe in that situation."
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 gives Hawaii about $200,000 a year. It mandates schools to offer transportation for homeless students and allows children whose families are displaced by homelessness to enroll in the campus they were attending before, even if they move outside the district.
Olive Kaleuati, a plaintiff in the class-action suit, said she was forced to pull her two sons from Leihoku Elementary after moving to a shelter by Kamaile Elementary in Waianae. Education officials acknowledged in court they do not ask families whether they are homeless, to avoid "stigmatizing" children.
This update was written by Star-Bulletin reporter Alexandre Da Silva.
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