Twelve-year-old Aiden Killoran greets everyone with a smile and a hug, and tells stories about opening “Aiden’s Famous Seaside Restaurant” someday.
But as graduation day at Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School approaches, Aiden’s future is up in the air. He has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder, and a recent recommendation from the Remsenburg-Speonk Committee on Special Education could mean that the sixth-grader will not be able to attend Westhampton Beach Middle School this fall.
Last week, the Committee on Special Education, also known as the CSE, recommended to his parents, Christian and Terrie Killoran of Remsenburg, that Aiden be placed in a classroom next year featuring up to eight students, one teacher and one teacher’s assistant. That arrangement is known as an “8-1-1 environment,” as opposed to the “15-1-1 environment” that his current individual education plan, or IEP, suggests.
In order to evaluate students with special needs, the CSE, which is made up of faculty and support staff at Remsenburg-Speonk, works with a child’s parents or guardians to develop an IEP.
An 8-1-1 classroom scenario means that Aiden has been classified as an “alternately assessed student.” The Killorans fear that this label will mean that Aiden cannot attend the Westhampton Beach Middle School next year, because, to their knowledge, the district has never accepted any alternatively assessed students, stating that there are not enough students attending the district to offer such a program.
Therefore, in all likelihood, Aiden will be forced to enroll in a different district in September, one that better caters to alternatively assessed students. Those students who live within the Westhampton Beach School District, or attend one of its feeder districts that includes Remsenburg-Speonk, are typically offered the choice of enrolling with the Eastport South Manor, Center Moriches or Southampton school districts, or with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES.
“We want the least-restrictive program for Aiden,” Mr. Killoran said, explaining that he and his wife are planning to file a due process complaint against the Remsenburg-Speonk District.
Mr. Killoran, an attorney and vice president of Hunters for Deer, contends that because Aiden has shown progress with his current IEP, a more restrictive classroom environment would violate his civil rights. Once the complaint is filed, which the Killorans expect to do this week, a state hearing officer could be appointed to evaluate the CSE’s findings.
“Usually, we’d keep these matters private, but in this case we want the decision-makers to face the public and justify their stance,” said Mr. Killoran who, along with his wife, intend to picket outside the Westhampton Beach Middle School at 2:15 p.m. on Monday, May 11, during dismissal, to both raise awareness to the issue and pressure the district to make a decision.
The couple is also asking members of the community to attend the Westhampton Beach Board of Education meeting that begins at 7:30 p.m. that night in the high school library.
Michael Radday, Superintendent of Westhampton Beach Schools, said he was aware of the request and has been in contact with the Killoran family, however, could not comment further, citing the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act.
The other issue, the Killorans explained, is that they were told only during last week’s CSE meeting that Aiden has not been on a schedule that follows the 15-1-1 IEP.
Jan Achilich, director of special education at Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School and one of the CSE’s members, said she could not answer any questions about Aiden’s case because it would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.