State delegate blasts school board

May 27, 1997


Staff Writer

A state legislator has threatened the Washington County Board of Education with legal action if it doesn't reverse its decision to transfer a North Hagerstown High School teacher's aide and teacher.

Del. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George's, said she felt compelled to clear her busy schedule to come to the school board meeting Tuesday night at the request of her nephew, North High student John Claybon.

Benson said that the school board hurt her nephew and other students by transferring special education aide Kurt Britner to the Alternative School earlier this month.


She said the decision wasn't educationally sound because it was based on personalities rather than the best interest of students.

Benson said she has been fighting for years to get the school system to provide the necessary resources for her nephew, whom she said they wrongly labeled as a "slow learner" in elementary school.

An educator for the past 35 years, Benson said it was clear to her that Claybon had a different problem, finally diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder two years ago.

Working with Britner and special education teacher Amy Knepper has helped Claybon, now a ninth-grader, and motivated him to excel and make the honor roll, she said.

Transferring Britner destroys the consistency of the program and forces her nephew to make an adjustment that is extremely difficult for a student with Attention Deficit Disorder, Benson said.

"Consistency for these children is critical, and nobody has even thought about it," she said.

Benson said she considers the school system's treatment of her nephew over the years "pretty criminal" in depriving him of a quality education.

She said that she has discussed the case with a lawyer and that she and her family are "prepared to take whatever steps necessary" if the school board doesn't bring Britner and teacher Austin Gisriel, transferred to Smithsburg High School, back to North High.

Claybon, 16, told the school board that his attitude toward school has improved dramatically since he began working with Britner and Knepper, who understand his disability and know how to push him.

Because of them, he said he now likes to come to school, do homework and learn.

Claybon said he called his aunt because he's happy to be doing well in school and proud of Knepper and Britner for helping him.

He said he started a petition to bring Britner and Gisriel back and has gotten more than 100 students and parents to sign it.

School board members Edwin Hayes and Andrew R. Humphreys said they couldn't comment because of the nature of the matter.

Board President B. Marie Byers was not at the meeting.

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