ROCKVILLE – Administrative law Judge Marina Sabett cleared the way for members of the media to re-enter a court hearing involving a special-needs student and Montgomery County Public Schools, a week after kicking a Montgomery County Sentinel reporter out of the fourth date of the hearing.
The case revolves around the issue of whether MCPS did enough to provide a free and accessible education to the teenage son of Paul Griffin and Suzanne Levin.
The parents are seeking reimbursement for sending their son to Baltimore Lab School and “compensatory services for the alleged failure of Montgomery County Public Schools to provide a free appropriate education” for the current and past school years, according to a transcript of the judge’s remarks during the Dec. 11 hearing.
In a Dec. 22 letter sent to MCPS attorney Jeffrey Krew, the parents’ attorney Holly Parker and The Sentinel’s attorney, Adrianna Rodriguez, Sabett confirmed she received a letter from Krew removing his objection to The Sentinel’s covering the court hearing.
Krew said during the Dec. 16 hearing he did not want to litigate in front of an “audience,” referring to a reporter who attempted to cover the hearing at the Carver Educational Services Center.
Sabett later asked the reporter to leave, saying, “For today, this is a closed hearing.”
“Per Mr. Krew’s December 21, 2015 letter to me, I understand that MCPS has no objection to the presence of a reporter at the resumption of the hearing in the above-referenced case on January 5, 2016,” stated Sabett in her letter. “If the Parents and the Student still intend to waive their right to a closed hearing in this matter, counsel for the Parents/Student should indicate this in writing to me and counsel for MCPS by no later than 5 p.m., on December 23, 2015.”
The hearing is scheduled to continue Jan. 5 and end Jan. 6.
On Dec. 23, Parker sent a follow-up letter to Sabett and Krew, stating, “The Parents/Student still intend to waive their right to a closed hearing in this matter.”
Griffin and Levin requested media coverage of the hearings, saying they believed they were not being treated fairly.
“I think it’s for the transparency, to expose the tactics Montgomery County Public Schools are using against parents,” said Griffin.
Griffin accused Krew of pursuing “scorched-earth litigation” tactics that “you would expect to come from drug cartel lawyers, and you can quote me on that, than (from) an institution that’s supposed to be educating our kids.”
Earlier this week, Griffin sent to The Sentinel the recorded condensed transcript of the Dec. 11 and 14 hearings, as prepared by For The Record Inc.
The Dec. 11 transcript provided the opening statements from Parker and Krew in which they laid out one of the key parts of the case: whether the parents wanted to put their child in a public school or private school.
The transcripts provide the first look into the countering arguments made available to the public after The Sentinel’s ouster from the Dec. 16 hearing.
“If Montgomery County had an appropriate program, again, the parents certainly did not wish to spend their own money, they did not wish to drive to Baltimore, back and forth, every day. If there had been an appropriate program in Montgomery County, the parents would have considered that placement,” stated Parker.
Krew countered that “a child cannot suffer an educational deprivation, where his parents had no intention of sending him to a public school.
“We’re talking everything that Ms. Parker just discussed is nothing but after the fact justification for a decision that was made long before. Whether the parents cooperated or not, we’ll show that they really didn’t, but what is so clear, is that they were never interested in a Montgomery County Public School,” said Krew.