Parents gather to weigh suit against school board Group gets briefing on class action law BALTIMORE COUNTY

June 23, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

About 200 Baltimore County parents met last night to discuss the possible filing of a class-action lawsuit to stop the school board and superintendent from placing hundreds of special-education and learning-disabled children in regular classrooms.

Irene Spencer, president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland, probably tapped into the crowd's mood best when she asked, "How many more doors do you want slammed in your face?"

"None!" the parents cried in response.

The audience of parents, many with their children, packed into the Gunpowder VFW hall on Ebenezer Road in White Marsh to participate in the discussion of a possible class action suit in federal court against embattled school Superintendent Stuart Berger and the school board.

Two lawyers from a Washington, D.C., firm that specializes in education law told the crowd that a class-action suit is possible. Attorney Beth Goodman said the parents could seek an emergency injunction, which could prevent the school system from going ahead with plans to move learning disabled children to different schools.

Ms. Goodman said the school board failed to follow proper procedures in deciding to move children. There should be more parental involvement, on a case-by-case basis,

she said.

The idea of the suit "would be to halt the process at this point," Ms. Goodman said.

Mrs. Spencer said there are some 11,000 students in Baltimore County receiving some kind of special-educational services, with about 800 students requiring the most intensive services.

That would be a large enough class to file the suit, Ms. Goodman said.

The parents were told the suit would cost $25,000.

Already, three groups have pledged a total of $13,000. The Teacher's Association of Baltimore County put up $6,000 and the Learning Disabilities Association has pledged $5,000. A local PTA pledged $2,000.

Although the meeting was mainly about one emotionally charged issue, it didn't stop parents, organizers and a couple of politicians from escalating the criticism of Dr. Berger and the school board. Petitions calling for the ouster of both Dr. Berger and the board were passed around, as was a petition calling for a referendum to make the county school board an elected body.

Del. Joseph Bartenfelder, D-Dist. 8, promised the group he would submit a bill in the next session of the General Assembly that would make the school board an elected body. Currently, board members are appointed by the governor.

"The blame shouldn't all go to Dr. Berger," said Delegate Bartenfelder.

"Part of it should go to the school board," he said.

"Throw them all out," one woman shouted.

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