Father 'ecstatic' after decision allowing his son to repeat 8th grade Parent wants child to improve poor record

September 04, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

After a victorious battle with the Howard County school system, Robert Merriman IV will start school today as an eighth-grader -- the same grade he started last year.

His father, Robert H. Merriman, had sued the school district two weeks ago demanding that his 14-year-old son repeat the eighth grade because he was not academically ready to progress to high school, as the school system had planned.

The decision came two days after Merriman, on advice of his attorney, withdrew the lawsuit filed in Howard County Circuit Court and filed an administrative appeal with the school system.

"I was ecstatic," Merriman, a language specialist with the government, said yesterday of hearing from a school secretary about his son's admission to Murray Hill Middle School in a special education program.

Merriman had not allowed his son to start ninth grade and had begun teaching him at home in a basement office converted into a makeshift classroom.

My son "is thrilled," said Merriman, a North Laurel resident. "He wasn't really thrilled with the home schooling. Just when his friends were coming home from school, he was starting school."

Yesterday, Howard County school Superintendent Michael Hickey confirmed that Robert will be allowed to enter the eighth grade. He said he planned to contact the boy's father directly and declined to discuss specifics of the case until he had talked to him.

"I feel I owe that to him," Hickey said yesterday.

Merriman, whose son has a learning disability, had alleged that the school system wanted to promote his son so its statistics would look good to state evaluators. School officials denied the allegation.

Merriman said his action was designed to help his son catch up and improve a school record of C's and D's.

"An explanation would be nice, but the fact is, he is in the eighth grade, and that's all that's important to me," Merriman said.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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