By Rawson Jahan and Paul Harding
An agreement to educate Aiden Killoran, a student with down syndrome who was previously denied entry into Westhampton Beach Middle School, was reached by the Westhampton Beach Committee on Special Education early September.
The agreement allows Killoran to attend school, but he will not be taking core classes such as English and Math, and the school will not be providing for his IDP, a specified program for children with special needs.
His case is being reviewed by the Westhampton Beach Committee on Special Education, which will present a complete education plan to Aiden’s parents when the hearings reconvene on October 14 and 17.
Killoran’s parents, Christian Killoran and Terrie Killoran, have fought for over a year with the school district, including filing a federal lawsuit, to have Aiden attend a regular school with his friends instead of a special needs school in the Remsenburg-Speonk Union Free School District.
The Killoran’s said that school officials claimed they did not have the necessary programs available to accommodate for Aiden’s down syndrome. “They basically did not make any effort to entertain whether or not they had the capacity to have him, and he has missed over a year of education,” Killoran’s father said.“They didn’t agree to participate in assisted CRC, they did nothing.”
“Since the inception of this matter, the Westhampton Beach School District has acted in the child’s best interests in seeking to ensure that he is placed in a program that will appropriately meet his educational and developmental needs. Out of respect for the child’s privacy rights and the pending legal process, we will not comment any further at this time,” Judy McCarthy, Secretary to the Superintendent of the Westhampton Beach School District, said.
According to Newsday for the 2014-2015 school year, the Remsenburg-Speonk District, where Aiden was last enrolled, was allowed a budget of $13,227,089, which serves 344 students. That equates to $38,450.84 per student. Also according to Newsday, The Westhampton Beach District was given an approved budget of $54,726,662, which serves 1,791 students. That equates to $30,556.48 per student.
The amount given to educate each student is roughly the same, however the district stands by its initial determination that it simply cannot accommodate Killoran.
“Him being sent away is discriminatory, he should be allowed to have the potential to pursue any educational path as anybody else,” Killoran’s father said.
Colleen Ferone, an official from Rensemberg-Speonk Union Free School District, declined to comment on the Killorans’ situation, stating that the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Acts prevented her from doing so.
Earlier this month, Aiden started the school year at the Westhampton Beach Middle School. “The real battle is to have Aiden enrolled and for the district to assume CSC responsibility,” Killoran’s father said, “And right now the district has only agreed to provide within the walls of the district.”
But school districts vary in the way their budgets are spent and, to what extent their budgets are used for special needs.
Each year, the South Huntington Union Free School district must provide money to fund Special Education, Margaret Bayley, the Principal Stenographer for the South Huntington School District, said. According to Newsday, for the 2014-2015 school year, the South Huntington Union Free School district had a budget of $151,840,230 that served 6,000 students. This equates to $25,306.70 per student.
“Educating a child with special needs is expensive, it can cost up to $60,000,” Bayley said.
“We offer a full continuum of special education services to all children with disabilities, based on the unique needs of each student,” Jacqueline Harris, the Deputy Superintendent of the district, said.
According to The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Part 200.2, Section B Paragraph 1, New York public schools have the responsibility “to ensure that students with disabilities residing in the district have the opportunity to participate in school district programs, to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the student.” However, school districts vary in how they interpret cases of each special needs child. There is no unification within Suffolk County districts on which special needs programs are available at specific schools.
For now Aiden is excited to be going to school with his friends, while his father awaits the hearing to determine whether or not he will continue with the federal lawsuit against the school.