State agrees to offer young offenders at city center more school services

Instruction was disrupted by changeover between agencies

December 14, 2005|By GREG GARLAND | GREG GARLAND,SUN REPORTER

State juvenile services officials agreed yesterday to offer more educational programs at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, beginning next week.

The step came after a Baltimore judge summoned them to a 2 1/2 -hour, closed-door meeting to address complaints that young offenders held in the state-run juvenile jail have not been getting their usual classroom instruction since Dec. 5.

Deputy Juvenile Services Secretary Steve Moyer said youths have been getting adequate education services. But he said his agency had to make temporary adjustments as it prepares to turn over responsibility for educating the roughly 100 youths to the State Department of Education.

"We are in transition," Moyer said. "They are physically moving into the place that we currently occupy. ... Obviously, during the transition there have been some changes made."

Plans had called for the education department to take over the center's educational programming Dec. 27, with classes to begin Jan. 2. However, education officials agreed yesterday to move some staff in next week so more classes can be offered through the end of the year.

Katherine Oliver, an education department administrator, said the plans were adjusted after yesterday's meeting with Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin P. Welch, the city's chief juvenile judge.

"We will be intensifying academic instruction, beginning next week," Oliver said. Her department also promised to make sure that, during the transition, youths will receive all of the special-education services that are required in their individual treatment plans, she said.

Representatives of the Maryland public defender's office also attended yesterday's meeting.

In open court afterward, Welch announced that the issue of providing educational services had been resolved to his satisfaction.

But attorneys with the public defender's office said they were not satisfied. Assistant Public Defender Leonard Schwartz said that neither his office nor parents were advised of plans to temporarily disrupt legally required educational programs.

But Shelly Mintz, an attorney for juvenile services, said state officials "are going over and above what the law requires to ensure that the best interests of the children are served."

Welch directed juvenile services officials to provide weekly reports on education to the public defender's office. He also instructed them to provide a copy of their agreement with the state education department. In an interview after the hearing, Moyer said that agreement was still in draft stage and not signed.

greg.garland@baltsun.com

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