ROCKVILLE – Administrative Law Judge Marina Sabett ruled in favor of Montgomery County Public Schools in a case involving a special-needs child whose parents asked the school system to reimburse them for their son’s private school education.
The hearing held at the Carver Educational Services Center involved a teenage middle school student with a large brain malformation, epilepsy and learning disabilities who attends the Baltimore Lab School, a private special-education school in Baltimore.
Jeffrey Krew, the attorney representing MCPS, argued the school system offered the boy’s parents an individualized education program that ensured an adequate and free public education at Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring but the parents choose to send their son to Baltimore Lab School instead.
Holly Parker, the attorney representing the student’s parents, argued a large middle school would not be conducive to a student who she said thrived in small classroom settings and at a place with a registered nurse on staff throughout the school day.
Parker disagreed with part of Sabett’s ruling.
“She made some points that the County agreed to do some things that I don’t believe are accurate,” she said, specifying a one-to-one request.
Parker summed up the ruling by saying the judge ruled what MCPS is offering “will suffice.”
“I just looked at it today, started crying and left it alone,” said Parker.
The proceeding turned out to be an emotional one for Parker, whose father died during the sixth day of the hearing in early January.
Sabett continued the hearing to Jan. 15 and issued her ruling Feb. 17.
Paul Griffin, the boy’s father, stated in a Feb. 10 text he and his wife Suzanne Levin planned to check their son into a hospital Feb. 11 for “observation and testing to determine whether brain surgery is possible to stop his seizures. Supposed to be there for a week. Of course, according to MCPS we are making all of this up!”
Griffin explained he found out his son’s epilepsy is not curable.
“There’s no operation they can give,” he said, noting his son’s seizures “are coming from multiple parts of the brain.”
Krew did not return a request for comment prior to this publication’s deadline Wednesday.
Griffin said he plans to appeal the case if it is possible.
“They denied us the right to a public hearing for at least one day,” he said, referring to the fourth day of the hearing when Sabett denied a reporter’s entry to sit in on the case despite a request from the parents for the media to be present.
Sabett later reversed course and allowed public attendance on the subsequent days of the hearing.
Griffin said he planned to file a separate lawsuit against the County over medical issues involved in the case.
“We’re probably going to have to take the County up on its offer to sue them under the Americans With Disabilities Act. That’s what the lawyer suggested in his closing argument,” said Griffin. “So, I think we’re going to take him up on his offer.”