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Thursday, December 7, 2000

DOE sued
on behalf
of deaf kids

By Harold Morse

Janet Johanson, a single deaf mother of two adopted deaf children, both age 11, filed suit in federal court in an effort to force the state Department of Education to provide her children an interpreter in their after-school program.

The suit filed yesterday claims the Education Department must, under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act, allow the children, who cannot speak or hear, to take as active a part in the A+ program as other children.

Spokesman Greg Knudsen said Education Department officials had not seen the complaint; he had no immediate comment.

Working parents of disabled children, such as Johanson, are entitled to the same services provided children without disabilities, said Stanley Levin, Johanson's attorney.

Levin said the mother tried for three years to get help for her children and her pleas were ignored.

"Deaf children are at risk of serious harm where the DOE has no one available to interpret for them in the case of injury," said Carl Varady, Johanson's other attorney. "The DOE, in effect, is locking these children in a closet for two hours a day while the other children around them and their parents enjoy the full benefits A+ is supposed to provide," he said.

Also named in the lawsuit is the YMCA, which provides services under contract at Waikiki Elementary for the A+ program. Johanson's children attend the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind during normal school hours and are enrolled in the Waikiki school for the after-school program.

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