City efforts to dismiss special ed order fail

September 13, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

Clearly out of patience with the city's faulty compliance with a special education court order, a federal judge has rejected Baltimore's efforts to dismiss the order and to pass on to the state some of mounting legal fees in the case.

Judge Marvin J. Garbis said in effect the matter was heading to trial in November. In an order filed this week, the judge was harshly critical of Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, saying that "it is truly a tragedy that the city, and its public school system, must bear these costs due to the lack of ability and / or lack of desire of defendant Amprey to bring [the school system] into compliance with federal law," Garbis wrote.

The city, in a filing last spring, asked Garbis to modify or dismiss a "consent decree" under which the school system is operating programs for 18,000 disabled students. The decree requires Baltimore to improve services for students with disabilities.

The city also had asked the court to order the State Department of Education, another defendant in the 12-year-old case, to pay some of the legal fees and part of the salary of Felicity T. Lavelle, a court-appointed monitor on special education compliance.

Garbis said Lavelle's costs "do not relate in any way to the actions of the state. It is the long-standing failure of defendant Amprey and the Baltimore City Public Schools which has required the enormous (albeit necessary) expenditures."

The judge also called the city's effort to dismiss the consent decree "unnecessary" because the case is due to go to trial in November, when "this court will address the issue of whether the [schools] should be placed in partial or full receivership of the state. At that time, the court will hear evidence as to the myriad of problems which plague the school system."

Amprey declined to comment. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he hadn't seen the Garbis order and would not comment.

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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