Court affirms real-time captioning for 2nd deaf student
By Melissa Pamer, Staff Writer
Editor: Do public school students with hearing loss have a right to a real time captioner as an appropriate accommodation? According to a judge in Glendora, CA, they do.
Here’s the article as reported by Melissa Pamer, a staff writer for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. The article is reprinted with their kind permission.
The school district last week lost a second battle in its fight to keep from providing a real-time captioning service for two deaf students at Glendora High School.
A state judge ordered the Glendora Unified School District to begin offering the service to Victor Solorzano, 15. In May, Victor’s sister Samantha, 17, won her own case against the district, which dropped its appeal of that decision in October.
The two siblings say they need the service – in which an aide rapidly transcribes class discussion onto a laptop seen by the captioning user.
Both deaf from birth, Victor and Samantha have inner-ear implants so they can hear. But they tend to miss things in fast-paced classrooms.
Now the two will be on equal footing with their fellow students, said their mother, Jackie Solorzano.
“We’re thrilled,” she said.
The judge’s decision comes after months of litigation that began with Solorzano’s insistence last year that her daughter be provided the service, Communication Access Real-Time Translation, or CART.
The district refused, and the family filed a lawsuit.
When the Solorzanos won, the district appealed to federal court. Meanwhile, officials refused to provide CART for Victor Solorzano as well, and his mother again filed suit on his behalf in September.
Under court order, the district has provided the $60,000 per-year service to Samantha since the semester began. While officials in
October dropped their appeal in that case, they continued to fight Victor’s suit.
The district is still considering an appeal of last week’s decision in Victor’s case, an official said, adding that the cases were different and the settlement of one didn’t impact the other.
“Each case is supposed to be evaluated on its own merits. Even with twins, you wouldn’t necessarily say all the facts are the same,” said Ted McNevin, the district’s director of instructional and student support services.
The district argued in both children’s cases that each student was doing well academically and therefore did not need additional assistance.
“On the other side you have parents and attorneys who want to get the Cadillac program, and you can’t blame them for that,” McNevin said. “But that’s where the dispute comes in.”
The Solorzanos’ attorney opposed the notion that CART was a kind of educational extravagance.
“The district doesn’t have to give them the best education possible. That’s what the law says,” lawyer David Grey said. “But here you have a kid where you give him a car that has two flat tires.”
Administrative Law Judge Glynda Gomez agreed.
Victor, she wrote, “had been deprived of the opportunity to access and participate in the general education curriculum.”
The case is a precedent for oral-deaf students – who learn and communicate without sign language, Grey said.
“I thought it was crystal clear the first time,” he said, referring to Samantha’s case.
The district is responsible for the Solorzanos’ attorney’s fees in both cases, coming to about $65,000, McNevin said. The district’s own fees will total between $35,000 and $45,000 for both cases, he said.
As to whether is was worth it for the district to combat the second case, McNevin said, “I don’t know. It’s hard to assess that.”
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” he said.