Special ed lawsuit negotiations extended Time needed to work out details of tentative pact

November 06, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Negotiations to settle a long-running lawsuit over special education have been extended to Nov. 23 after the two sides failed to reach an agreement by last week.

Baltimore school officials and lawyers representing special education students told U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis last month they had reached a tentative agreement but had to work out the details. Now, they say that process will take three weeks longer than they first believed.

Attorneys representing special education students had sought to have the school system held in contempt of court for failing to accomplish actions outlined in a five-year plan to improve special education, and they have asked Garbis to fine the system millions of dollars.

Lawyers for the school system argued that the attorneys from the Maryland Disability Law Center were trying to interfere in the management of the school system. For instance, MDLC wanted the right to review the hiring of administrative staff and principals and the signing of contracts between the school system and the teachers union.

In the settlement, MDLC attorneys agreed to drop its complaints and accept a modified plan to improve special education. In exchange, the school system was to agree to specific deadlines and consequences for failing to meet deadlines of the plan.

"We are still working on it," said Abbey Hairston, an attorney representing the school system. "What we have agreed to do is to reach consensus on the actions that will be completed this [school] year."

The special education student designation -- which encompasses a range including those with physical handicaps and those with mild learning disabilities -- applies to nearly 18 percent of Baltimore's public school children.

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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