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Westhampton Beach rejected special needs student, says ruling

Aiden Killoran, right, who has Down syndrome, is

Aiden Killoran, right, who has Down syndrome, is seen at his home in Remsenburg on Aug. 31, 2015, with his brother, Christian.  Credit: News 12 Long Island

The Westhampton Beach school district failed to provide an appropriate education for a student with Down syndrome and had prematurely rejected the possibility of educating the teen in its own classes, a state-appointed hearing officer ruled in a case brought by the boy’s parents.

The officer ordered the district to formally enroll Aiden Killoran, 14, and it also must hire a consultant to report on whether to include the teen in classes. Then, the district must convene a special education committee and with the consultant’s input provide an appropriate placement.

Christian and Terrie Killoran, of Remsenburg, had sought to have their son attend Westhampton Beach Middle School along with his peers. School officials had said that they did not have the appropriate program to accommodate Aiden, now an eighth-grader.

Westhampton Beach refers special education students who require the most services to the Eastport-South Manor school district, under an arrangement with that district.

The Jan. 26 ruling said Westhampton Beach school officials failed to provide a free and appropriate education for the teen and the “plain truth is that the possibility was never even considered” and the district was “rejecting it outright before it ever saw a single piece of paper regarding” the student.

The district, the ruling read, failed to make reasonable efforts to assess Aiden’s needs and to see if he could be accommodated in the Westhampton Beach district.

Tuesday, Christian Killoran said he was “happy that Aiden’s claims were finally vindicated.”

“But we have also lost all faith in this district . . . because of all the bad faith they exhibited in that battle. We are worried about their genuine commitment to adhere to the ruling,” he said.

Still, Aiden’s family would like him to be integrated into the Westhampton Beach district “as soon as possible,” Christian Killoran said.

The ruling does not mean that Aiden will attend classes there. Under a previous agreement reached with the district in September, Aiden attends the middle school but only for such services as physical therapy and he is home-tutored.

In the ruling, state-appointed hearing officer Nancy Lederman said the consultant should review the instruction available in Westhampton Beach but also look at programs in other districts, including Eastport-South Manor.

Westhampton Beach Superintendent Michael Radday said in a statement Tuesday that the district was “pleased” that the officer “has directed the case back to the district’s CSE (Committee on Special Education), which is the appropriate venue for program and placement decisions.”

The order also denied the parents’ compensatory claims, noting that the parents intentionally kept their child from an appropriate education while they pursued their legal claims. Aiden repeated the sixth grade and the parents also demanded home-schooling this year, read the ruling. The Killorans have filed an appeal on the claim.

Aiden had attended the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School, which has kindergarten through sixth grade and contracts with Westhampton Beach schools to educate its children in the intermediate and secondary grades.

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