Hearing impaired Poway High School student fights for education

Family sues Poway district for captioning device

POWAY, Calif. - A Poway High School student, who is hearing impaired, is talking with 10News about her growing frustration over the district's unwillingness to help her learn at the same level as her peers.

Delanie Harrington and her parents tell 10News that they asked the Poway Unified School District for a captioning device before she was even a freshman at the school. Now, she is a senior and she does not know if she will ever have a captioning device in any of her classrooms.

Wednesday night, in the comfort of her family's living room, the 17-year-old appeared to be like any other teenager.

But by taking one look at her television set, you could see the closed captioning. Delanie is hearing impaired and needs to see the words to better understand what is going on.

At school, she is not so fortunate.

"When the teacher turns around to write something on the board, I cannot lip read," she said.

The honor roll student is left frustrated and often times by the end of the day, she has throbbing headaches.

She wants the district to put in a system called CART captioning.

"What it is," she explained, "is someone who either sits next to me or in the back of the classroom. Someone who is hired and they have a keypad and they basically type everything that is being said by the students and by a teacher."

She has been asking for it for four years. Still, no device.

She has used it for the past three summers at Palomar College for an American Sign Language class without an argument from the administration there. She says it has been extremely helpful in her learning.

"I mean, she works extremely hard to get the grades she does and it's just sad that she's allowed to have to work that much harder," said her father, Kevin Harrington.

Since the district refused, the Harringtons said they had no choice but to sue for their daughter's rights to have equal access to an education.

To date, the issue remains unresolved.

"It all comes down to money," said Delanie's mother, Tami Harrington.

While Delanie is not getting support from the District, she is finding support online.

Two weeks ago, she posted a petition letter on a website called Change.org. Already she gathered more than 1,700 signatures.

"Overnight it was 200, and then it got to 600," she added.

Clearly, she is doing what she can and not giving up her fight.

"Even if I get it for the last two days, I will fight for it," she said.

10News contacted the Poway Unified School District and were sent the following statement:

A Poway Unified School District student, along with a student from another district, initiated lawsuits regarding their respective rights pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.)  Both school districts prevailed at the administrative level and in Federal District Court. 

However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently remanded a portion of the case back to the Federal District Court for further analysis of what the school districts are required to provide the students under the ADA.  In addition to that portion of the case being sent back to the Federal District Court, PUSD is in the process of seeking clarification of the Court’s ruling in the Ninth Circuit, and considering its options regarding appealing the Opinion of the Ninth Circuit. 

As these matters involve students who have privacy rights and because of the ongoing litigation, we cannot comment any further at this time.

10News will stay on top of any developments.

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