A Sweaty Guy Plots Strategy


A couple of weeks later, John called me into his office.

I’d been sober since he and Pauline had confronted me. Things were going smoothly; I was hitting “twelve step” meetings most days after work.

Ala Wai Elementary had avoided any real contentious special education cases, at least in the the several years that Rachel Arakaki had been principal.

John told me that she was concerned because she had never dealt with Sandra before, but was aware of her reputation for using stall tactics and obstructing the IEP process. She’d heard that Sandra’s involvement meant that the case was be sure to go to a due process hearing, a traumatic experience for everyone involved.

“It may not be all that bad,” John told me, “but she’s right to be concerned. I told Mrs. Arakaki that you’d get in touch with her SSC and set up a meeting. I think the IEP is already scheduled, so make sure you meet with them before that.”

I arrived at Ala Wai Elementary a little after eight on a Friday morning.

I was clearheaded, having rededicated myself to a clean life in a 12 step program. Muriel, the SSC, filled me in on some of the details of the case while we waited for Mrs. Arakaki in the staff room. The child’s name was Courtney, she was diagnosed with Autism and seemed to be regressing. At the last meeting, Sandra, speaking for Courtney’s mom, had mentioned that the team should consider placing the girl at home for part of the school day and providing one on one services there.

She seemed to be hoping that, as a representative of the district, I would either approve a home based program at the district’s expense or be the bad guy and tell the parent that we would not provide such a program.

“It’s not up to me or anyone at the district to approve any placement or services in the IEP.” I reminded them “Remember, it’s up to the IEP team to decide what the child needs. If the team determines that the student needs a home program, and the school doesn’t have the resources to provide it, then the district will have to.”

“We just need to guide her through the process. If she thinks her daughter needs a home based program we need to ask her what “need” of Courtney’s would be addressed through the home program and how could we address that at school instead. The home setting is considered more restrictive than school…You know, you have the continuum with the regular classroom on a regular campus at one end, then you have the special ed classroom, the special school and home and hospital are at the most restrictive end. The law requires us to place her in the least restrictive environment that she can progress in.”

“But if Sandra comes she’ll demand that we place Courtney at home. I’ve heard how she can be.”



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Joe Kernan

Joe Kernan


I’ve been a soldier, a teacher, an advocate for people with disabilities, an attorney and a ne’er-do-well. I’ve struggled with substance abuse and homelessness.