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Judge says Bartlett's court testimony was at least 'evasive'

July 26, 2000

Judge says Bartlett's court testimony was at least 'evasive'



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell Wednesday characterized a series of false fire calls made by a functionally illiterate 16-year-old boy as "understandable" given his inappropriate placement in a regular high school.

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McDowell's comments came during a hearing Wednesday for the teenager whose removal from the Washington County Job Development Center earlier this year was the focus of testimony at a juvenile hearing a week ago.

Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett testified at that hearing that he had no plans to close the Job Development Center, which serves older, special needs students.

"At best, Bartlett was evasive at worst, perjurious," McDowell said Wednesday.

The judge returned the youth to his mother's home to await a planned August meeting with school and juvenile personnel at which his future placement will be discussed.

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Attempts to reach Bartlett at his office and on his cellular telephone were unsuccessful Wednesday.

McDowell described the teenager's transfer from the Job Development Center in Smithsburg into the mainstream at South Hagerstown High School as the reason he was frustrated and acted out.

The charges of false fire calls stemmed from a series of telephone calls to the 911 Center at Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications that began Nov. 30, 1999, according to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Duane Gigeous.

The caller said there was smoke in a house on Elizabeth Street in the West End of Hagerstown but when firefighters arrived, nothing was found, Gigeous said.

An investigation by the Hagerstown Fire Marshal's office led to two brothers who admitted they put the teenager up to making the calls.

The brothers, both adults, received probation before judgment last spring and each was ordered to make $1,000 restitution.

On Wednesday, the teenager was ordered to perform 75 hours of community service and was returned to his mother's custody.

McDowell ordered that an educational surrogate be present at any meeting with Washington County Board of Education personnel involving his future placement.

The teen's attorney, Elisha Elliott, said she would be present as would representatives of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

"He really wants to be at the Job Development Center," Elliott said Wednesday.

Bartlett testified last week that mainstreaming students into job training in the community is a goal of the Washington County Board of Education and will continue to be.

But he denied there was any plan to close the Job Development Center or to direct school personnel to stop placing students there.

"(This student) went to the center in 1998 but the Board of Education, for its own reasons, decided to mainstream him to South High where he is frustrated," McDowell said.

The judge said he believes other school personnel who were called to testify last week were afraid to admit there is such a plan to close the center.

"The Board of Education is trying to deceive this court," McDowell said Wednesday. "The center has been of great benefit to students like (this student)."

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