Parents wonder what will happen when Loveland Academy closes

By Paula Akana
Published On: Jul 11 2012 09:26:11 AM HST

Parents speak out on the difficulties they have had in fighting to get the help their kids need.

HONOLULU -

The parents of students attending Loveland Academy in Makiki wonder where their children will go when the facility shuts down later this month.

The school, which provides wraparound mental health services for about 30 students with autism and other learning disabilities, is closing its doors on July 27.

The school and its attorneys say the state has refused to reimburse the school for the students' learning.  Loveland says it is owed at least $700,000.

"They learned so much in this school.  Non-verbal kids don't know what the options are," said Lina, a parent of a Loveland Academy student.  "Don't talk to people, don't want to know people and now they love to socialize with people.  It's scary to think that growth is going to stop now.  I'm scared."

It's a thought echoed by many parents at Loveland Academy.  What happens now?

Diane and George's son Sam started off at a public school.  Then, they say his teacher, who was having problems with him, told Sam he had a broken brain.  He spiraled.

"He was in second grade standing the road.  He wanted to kill himself rather than go to school," said George.

They pulled Sam out of school and eventually placed him  at Loveland Academy.  That began 10 years of litigation on who pays for his schooling.

"We were first told there's nothing wrong with your child.  We came to them with a report from a licensed neuropsychologist, a psychiatrist.  And it was ignored," said Diane.  "It took us three years of litigation to get them to identify that our son had special needs."

"It's bullying by the state because the state controls the purse strings and if they want to, they can take the parents to hearings year after year hoping that through a war of attrition they'll give up," said Carl Varady, attorney for the Loveland Academy students.

But, Diane and George have not given up.  They say the Department of Education's alternatives are unacceptable.

"He fought so hard.  He really wants to graduate from high school.  He wants to learn.  He's a good person," said Diane.  "I couldn't send him to these places they offer because he wouldn't last a day."

The DOE said it has paid and continues to pay for services provided by Loveland, when there is no legal dispute regarding the department's obligation to pay.

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