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Aug 4, 2015 2:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Parents Say They Will File Discrimination Suit Against Westhampton Beach School District

Aug 5, 2015 10:56 AM

A Remsenburg family says it will file a lawsuit later this week against the Westhampton Beach School District, alleging that it is discriminating against their son because he has Down syndrome.

Christian and Terrie Killoran of Remsenburg, the parents of 12-year-old Aiden Killoran, said they will file a verified complaint in U.S. District Court this week seeking a court order to allow their son to attend the Westhampton Beach Middle School in September. They are also seeking $20,000 in statutory damages and legal reimbursements.

“I plan on showing up to school on the first day of school in Westhampton Beach with my son,” Mr. Killoran said. “So they’d better be ready.”

The Killorans are contending that Westhampton Beach school officials are refusing to accept their son despite a contrary recommendation from his home district, Remsenburg-Speonk, given last month. The family argues that Westhampton Beach’s refusal to accept their son is a standard practice for that district, noting that it does not accept special needs students in middle or high school who are not on the Regents exam track, commonly referred to as alternately assessed students.

Last week, Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said he was under the impression that Remsenburg-Speonk had issued a recommendation that Aiden go to a school other than Westhampton Beach. He added that he was unable to get a copy of the settlement between the Killorans and Remsenburg-Speonk, so he could not say for certain what the recommendation for Aiden was.

“We did advise the Remsenburg-Speonk School District that our 15:1:1 program would not be an appropriate placement in accordance with the dictates of Part 200 of the Commissioner’s Regulations regarding the composition of special classes,” Mr. Radday wrote in an email.

Earlier this year, the Remsenburg-Speonk Committee on Special Education issued an individualized education program, or IEP, that called for Aiden to attend Eastport South Manor, which provides a classroom setting of one teacher and one aide per eight students, referred to simply as an 8:1:1 setting, for alternately assessed students. The Killorans contested this recommendation, saying it deviates from the integrated classroom-track Aiden was on previously.

Mr. Radday said Westhampton Beach commonly sends those students to Boards of Cooperative Educational Services facilities, or neighboring school districts, if they have programs that are better suited for particular students. “Our decisions, in all cases,” he wrote, “are guided by our genuine desire to act in the best interests of our students.”

The Killorans have been embroiled in battles with both the Westhampton Beach and Remsenburg-Speonk districts for the past several months. They have been trying to convince the districts to allow Aiden, who completed the sixth grade at Remsenburg-Speonk this spring, to finish his academic career in Westhampton Beach, rather than having to go Eastport South Manor, where many alternately assessed special education students are directed.

After staging protests, circulating petitions, confronting both boards publicly and threatening to sue Remsenburg-Speonk, the Killorans were able to strike a deal with their home district. As part of that settlement, Remsenburg-Speonk agreed to recommend that Westhampton Beach accept Aiden into a 15:1:1 class setting. As part of that accord, Aiden would be with a personal teaching assistant for six-and-a-half hours each day, an integration consultant for 60 hours a year, and a 3:1:1 resource room setting for 40 minutes a day, five days a week.

In a July 9 letter sent from Remsenburg-Speonk lawyer Lisa Hutchinson to Westhampton Beach attorney Kevin Seaman, Ms. Hutchinson acknowledges that Westhampton Beach lacks some of the resources called for in Aiden’s IEP, including a personal teaching assistant, a 3:1:1 resource room and the proper type of 15:1:1 academic setting. But she also notes that those accommodations “can easily be created to meet the needs of Aiden.

“In other words while implementation of this unique IEP may be departure from the WHB’s usual practices,” she continues in the letter, “[Remsenburg-Speonk] believes that it can be implemented with little burden on [Westhampton Beach].”

Days later, on July 14, and one day after the Killorans agreed to the settlement, Mr. Seaman wrote a letter to Robert Briglio, the hearing officer in the dispute between the family and Remsenburg-Speonk, stating that Westhampton Beach lacks the accommodations for “the severely disabled Down Syndrome child,” and, therefore, the district would not allow Aiden to attend the Westhampton Beach Middle School “as it would not be in the interests of the child to do so.”

Mr. Seaman went on to imply that Remsenburg-Speonk was agreeing to change its recommendation only to avoid being sued.

“The best interests of the child cannot be held subservient to the interests of the [Remsenburg-Speonk School District] to avoid litigation threatened by a parent,” he wrote.

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Good luck to the Killoran's.
By Michael Tessitore (76), East Quogue, New York on Aug 4, 15 5:08 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By freelance (21), Westhampton Beach on Aug 4, 15 5:17 PM
This poor child just wants to go to school with all of his friends. Why can't he be accommodated?
By freelance (21), Westhampton Beach on Aug 4, 15 5:17 PM
Time for Mr. Radday to be working elsewhere-this one is going to cost WHB a lot of money
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Aug 4, 15 10:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
I hope the Killorans win big time. It is disgraceful what WHB school district is doing.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Aug 5, 15 7:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
ESL comes before tax paying citizens with disabilitys, good luck with the lawsuit this is disgraceful
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Aug 10, 15 11:39 PM
1 member liked this comment