- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

BALTIMORE — A lawyer representing Baltimore’s special-education students told a federal judge yesterday that ongoing disagreements between the city school system and the state Department of Education likely will block her clients from getting the services they are owed.

Donna Wulkan, of the Maryland Disability Law Center, urged the judge to bring in a temporary, outside administrator to oversee special support services provided to Baltimore’s disabled students.

“It’s pretty clear the defendants — the state and [city schools] — are at loggerheads,” Miss Wulkan said.

The state and Baltimore City Public Schools are co-defendants in a 21-year-old class-action lawsuit, in which attorneys for disabled students say city schools failed to give them appropriate services and accurately diagnose disabilities.

At yesterday’s hearing, the state Department of Education, the city school system and attorneys for the disabled students each offered solutions.

An attorney for the school system asked U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis to leave that responsibility to the schools.

Douglas Nazarian said schools Chief Executive Officer Bonnie S. Copeland and the Board of Education have crafted a plan that includes a partnership with a special-education consultant and a “turnaround” expert.

But Elizabeth Kameen, an assistant attorney general arguing the state’s case, asked Judge Garbis to consider Baltimore’s long and spotty track record in providing service to its disabled students.

Miss Kameen asked the court to order the state Department of Education to step in with a remedial plan.

She said that order would boost the state’s authority to make changes and perhaps prevent the department from having to go through another administrative hearing.

“We are not saying it would be a bed of roses. There are serious problems in communication and cooperation between our clients,” Miss Kameen said.

Miss Wulkan said her group is proposing that the court appoint David Gilmore of Gilmore Kean LLC as a temporary administrator for related services.

Mr. Gilmore, who has a reputation as a problem fixer, is an independent transportation administrator for the D.C. public school system.

Related services include counseling or physical, occupational and speech therapy — beyond basic education — provided to disabled students.

Having a third party step in and administer related services will give the city and state the ability to work together to improve special education overall, Miss Wulkan said.

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