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Parents complain about kids 'falling through the cracks'

August 06, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education heard about a half-dozen parents Tuesday night complain about their children being denied help for attention deficit disorder and other emotional problems.

Parents told board members about their children's suicide tendencies, "violent and explosive" behavior and other erratic actions as a result of not being treated properly for the complications.

"The children are falling through the cracks. Something needs to be changed," said Melissa Cook, whose 9-year-old son was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

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Debbie Pryor of Parents' Place of Maryland, an organization that advises parents of children with learning disabilities, said the complaints seem to point to a "system problem." Pryor said she is seeing dozens of Washington County parents a month who are frustrated about how their kids are being treated.

Board president B. Marie Byers said the school system sets aside time each year to consider input about special education in the county. School officials have hardly heard any comments about the program in recent years, Byers said.

Byers also added that the school system has limited finances for special education.

"We appreciate your concern and will look into it," Byers said.

The complaints follow comments last week from Maryland Del. Joanne C. Benson, who said her office has been inundated with calls supporting her claim that some local school administrators encourage students to drop out of school.

A number of callers said their learning disabled children have been denied the help they need, labeled as troublemakers and eventually forced out of the system.

The next day at a community meeting in Hagerstown, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney said he believes there is grounds for a civil lawsuit against the local Board of Education.

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