After threats, school board forms advocacy team

August 21, 1997


Staff Writers

The decision by Washington County school officials to set up an advocacy team for parents with attention deficit disorder students was not a result of a threat by state Del. Joanne C. Benson to file suit against the Board of Education over what she called student neglect, a school official said.

The decision to set up the team was based soley on complaints from parents that their children are being denied help for the disorder, said Board of Education member Robert L. Kline.

School officials have had a plan in place to serve attention deficit disorder children, but they wanted something better, Kline said.


"We've taken it to heart, and we're going to start something," said Kline.

Board of Education president B. Marie Byers announced the formation of the advocacy team at Tuesday night's board meeting.

Parents of attention deficit disorder children have complained in public meetings recently about their children not getting proper services. At one of the meetings in Hagerstown on July 31, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney said he believed that there were grounds for a civil lawsuit against the Washington County Board of Education.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyers still will move forward with legal research and fact-finding to determine whether there are grounds for the class-action civil lawsuit that Benson, D-Prince George's, had threatened, said staff counsel Dwight Sullivan.

By September, attorneys should contact parents, students and school board officials to find individual cases of student neglect, Sullivan said.

He said if the school board's strategy proves effective, it may affect whether ACLU lawyers take the case to court.

"I'll be very interested in finding out about it," Sullivan said. "In any case, if you can resolve a situation in any other way than litigation, then that's preferable."

School officials said parents with attention deficit children can contact the advocacy team by calling Theresa Flak, the assistant superintendent for instruction, at the Washington County Schools central office on Commonwealth Avenue.

Flak's phone number is 301-766-2823.

Parents can contact Flak to discuss any concerns they have about attention deficit disorder and other emotional problems, said Kline. Members of the team also will be willing to visit parents' homes to dicsuss concerns, Kline said.

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