Makeup sessions planned for special-education students

City schools didn't provide some services during year

June 18, 2005|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Thousands of Baltimore special-education students will be offered extra therapy and counseling sessions this summer because the school system failed to provide required services to some students during the school year.

Audits conducted by the city school system and the State Department of Education revealed that a large percentage of children did not receive services throughout the year that were designed to assist them in school.

Such "interruptions" range from a child missing a single session to going long periods without services such as speech or occupational therapy, transportation and psychological counseling.

Although school officials do not know how many students missed services, they agreed yesterday to offer six hours of makeup sessions to each of 8,000 disabled students. Out of more than 10,000 students who qualify for such services, officials have reviewed the files of about 2,000 and found interruptions in 60 percent of them.

The problem of missed services was raised by the Maryland Disability Law Center, which represents plaintiffs in a federal special-education court case that dates back 20 years. City school officials are bound by a consent decree in that case to track how well the system serves disabled students.

The system agreed to provide six hours of services per child because that was the average amount of time that children missed services, according to the audits. Therapists and counselors will meet students in public libraries for the makeup sessions, or in school if they are enrolled in summer school

Schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland could not say how much the extra services would cost. She said they would likely be paid for with federal special-education funds that went un- spent this school year.

School officials are still studying how the interruptions occurred. Some were the results of unreliable therapists or counselors who did not show up or neglected to fill out paperwork to show they had served a child, Copeland said.

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