I don't know what is more upsetting, the fact that they tried to coerce the family into an IEP by with holding the communication device, the fact Leis was 'surprised' that the judge scolded him, or that AFTER the judged scolded he tried coerce the family AGAIN by offering the device to them if they would sign a gag order not to talk about the judge's scolding of him.
The moral bankruptcy that must be in place for this kind of behavior to happen... if you don't want to work in the best interests of children, THEN DON'T GO INTO THE EDUCATION FIELD!!!!
Mr. Leis and his staff would do well to read this and repent. Shadur and Wheaton aren't the only Judges angry with them.
What you do unto the least of these...
Update: Turns out Wade is friends with the Killians and has more of the story.
It was worse than I thought. He sent along the transcript of the judge's judgement.
Judge: Dist. 203 'blackmailed' parents
July 15, 2007
BY TIM WALDORF
The Naperville Sun
Two judges have said Naperville School District 203 held an autistic student "hostage" to "blackmail" his parents into agreeing to its plans for his education.
Killian Hynes, a nonverbal, autistic 6-year-old Naperville boy, communicates using a device known as a Tango, which costs $7,000. It's the only such device Killian has been able to relate to, said his father, Kevin Hynes, 43.
Six-year-old Killian Hynes and his mother, Beth, jump Thursday on their neighbor's trampoline in Naperville. Killian, who has autism, is the focus of a debate with District 203 about where he should attend school and the use of a communications device, called the Tango.
Simply put, Kevin said, the Tango is as important to Killian as a wheelchair would be to a child with a physical disability.
And that's why the Hynes family took legal action when Naperville School District 203 withheld their son's communication device.
"I know my rights, and I know my son's rights," said Kevin, who along with his wife, Beth, 44, is a lawyer. "You can get trampled on if you don't know your rights."
Judges who recently ruled on the case had harsh words for District 203. Federal Judge Milton Shadur asked District 203 the same question posed to notorious U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954: "Have you no shame?"
Where to educate
In January, Killian's reading therapist loaned the family a Tango to use while he attended Summit School Early Learning Center in Elgin. The Tango soon became an agreed upon provision in Killian's individual education plan, a curriculum and set of goals designed specifically for a special needs student. District 203 special education teachers and administrators who are part of the team creating Killian's IEP watched Killian work with the device in the spring. They then ordered one for him to use as part of his agreed upon summer IEP, and taught his teacher at Summit how to use it.
However, the IEP team, which includes Killian's parents, could not agree where he would receive his summer schooling.
The 6-year-old was bored and regressing at Summit, Kevin said. The school had grown considerably since they started sending him there in 2005, and they felt Summit's staff hadn't mastered the Tango to the point they could effectively integrate it into his instruction. So they made arrangements to send him to a more expensive but more technologically advanced Carol Stream program that could better incorporate the Tango into Killian's studies. And, Kevin said, they were willing to pay the difference - about $100 a week for nine weeks - despite the provision of laws such as the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Laws such as these require school districts to pay for placement of special needs students like Killian in private, out-of-district facilities if parents, teachers and administrators determine that the student's needs can't be met within the district.
"IDEA isn't supposed to be about how much it costs. It's about if it's appropriate for the kid, he gets it," Hynes said. "Still, I understand everybody has a budget, and we're willing to work within that."
In various e-mails to the Hyneses, District 203 administrators agreed that Killian wasn't getting what he needed at Summit. They indicated interest in the Carol Stream program, but they also expressed concerns regarding its costs.
The matter remained unresolved as of June 11, when Killian's summer IEP was set to begin, and when Kevin dropped by District 203 to pick up the new Tango. When he got there, administrators told him he couldn't have it.
Then, in correspondence with the Hyneses, special education and students' rights attorney Laura Sinars, District 203's legal counsel, indicated the only way District 203 would provide the device would be if the Hyneses agreed to send Killian to one of two programs the district preferred. District 203 either wanted to continue sending him to Summit for the summer, or enroll him in a District 203 program, which Killian's IEP team already had deemed an inappropriate fit for his needs, Kevin said.
But District 203 Superintendent Alan Leis said the district believes it can provide appropriate instruction for Killian within the school system.
"We weren't opposed to the technology at all," he said. "We just wanted it integrated into a longer-term solution."
The Hyneses had a different take on the situation than did District 203.
"I'm like, 'That's coercion. My son needs a communication device, and you can't coerce me,'" Kevin said.
Judges agreed with the Hyneses, and severely scolded District 203 administrators for their decision.
Judge Shadur, who heard the case June 27 only because District 203 sought to have it dismissed, said he'd seldom been as troubled by a complaint.
"The undisputed picture here is regrettably one of the defendants holding, I guess, a 6-year-old autistic boy hostage, depriving him of what is without dispute really a promised Tango communication device, something that everyone agrees - even the professionals agree - is essential to his effective functioning," Shadur said. "And to hold that back as what has to be viewed, I regret to say, as blackmail for his parents, seeking to compel them to accept a program that the defendant's own professionals have found not to be in his best interest."
Judge Shadur said the situation was "nothing short of appalling."
"And I regret that the delay, the nondelivery, appears to be as inflicting serious damage on the boy's progress in dealing with his extremely serious developmental difficulties," he said.
Shadur denied District 203's request to dismiss the case, and sent it back to DuPage County Circuit Court for trial June 29. There, Judge Bonnie Wheaton expressed sentiments similar to Shadur's in ruling for the Hyneses.
"I think Judge Shadur's statement that this 6-year-old boy is being held hostage is absolutely four square and right on," Wheaton said. "And I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the district would withhold this communicative device, which has evidently been proved to be a mechanism by which this autistic boy can communicate, merely because his parents have a dispute with the district over the remainder of his IEP."
Wheaton ruled that District 203 was to immediately provide Killian with the Tango.
"He has a right to the services, whether it's piecemeal or as a whole, under an IEP that is formulated by the district and agreed to by his parents," Wheaton said in her ruling. "Clearly, clearly, irreparable injury will occur to him for every day that he is deprived of this assisted communicative device."
Leis said the judges' comments surprised him.
"It wasn't our plan to hold the technology hostage," he said. "We just thought it needed to be part of a plan that integrated it into his instruction."
Kevin said he hopes Killian will someday attend a "regular school." That's the dream of every parent with an autistic child, he said.
But getting there will take a lot of work, he said. So wasting a summer - or even three weeks - is costly for both Killian and the district, he said, suggesting that the legal bills for Sinars' services had to far exceed the cost of services in the dispute.
The Hyneses could have had the Tango two days before Wheaton's June 29 ruling if they'd agreed to a settlement the district's counsel presented after Judge Shadur's scolding. In that June 27 offer, Sinars said, although the district "vehemently disagrees" with Judge Shadur, it would turn over the Tango if the Hyneses would abide by a confidentiality agreement.
Or, as Kevin said, a gag order.
"You must agree never to disclose, publicize, publish, indicate or in any other manner communicate the comments made today by Milton Shadur or reference in any way today's court appearance, the litigation you initiated against the district in court, the case name or number or the terms of the parties' agreement to or with any other person or entity," the settlement proposal states.
The Hyneses turned down that offer before the June 29 trial, opting to take their case to court and then to the public.
"I said, 'I want people to know what you guys are doing here,'" Kevin said.
Contact Tim Waldorf at email@example.com or 630-416-5270.