Suit over boy’s arrest
is settled for $50,000

The state will pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging an autistic boy was arrested without reasonable cause on his seventh birthday last year after he hit an educational aide at a Kailua school.

State of Hawaii As part of the deal, the Department of Education also agreed to conduct an internal investigation to prevent similar incidents from happening.

On Nov. 8 the Aikahi Elementary School student got frustrated and upset because he could not tie his shoelaces, and began waving his arms, family attorney Eric Seitz said yesterday.

When the special-education aide intervened, the child struck her with his hand, Seitz said. The lawsuit said the child has a history of aggressive behavior, with tendencies of biting, kicking and hitting due to his condition.

There is a written plan specifically for the child so the teacher or aide can control episodes of kicking, hitting, biting and other aggressive conduct due to his disability, according to Seitz.

The boy's mother, Raina Hockenberry, sued the aide, a supervising teacher, the principal and vice principal of Aikahi Elementary, the city and the policeman who arrested the child.

The suit contended that the boy struck the aide because of his condition, that he was unreasonably and unlawfully detained and that a special-education supervisor failed to properly advise school officials.

DOE spokeswoman Sandy Goya said, "The department is reviewing its current practices and procedures for our employees in terms of the appropriate response to a child who is acting out."

She said the department will provide training for employees to consider the child's age, behavior and other factors.

Police arrived at the school Nov. 9, arrested the child for suspicion of felony assault and took him to the Kailua station, where he was released to his mother 45 minutes later.

The complaint said school officials suspended the student Nov. 10 and told his mother the school would no longer provide free and appropriate education to the child.

The $50,000 cash settlement from the department will be divided, half to Hockenberry to be used in part for attorneys' costs and fees, and half into an annuity for the child's college education, accruing to about $45,000 when the child turns 18.

The boy has transferred to another school, Seitz said. He said his client is close to settling with the Honolulu Police Department.

State Department of Education

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