School Board Is Appealing
However, the school board is appealing the panel's decision and has filed suit in Frederick County Circuit Court, according to Charles Price, the school board's attorney.
Betsy Norris, the deaf student's mother, said she was aware of the school board's appeal but was not told the basis of the appeal. She said the school board had indicated it was not willing to set what might be a costly precedent--providing a sign-language interpreter--in the county.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review a similar case during its current term. The Hendrick Hudson Central School District in New York is asking the Court to rule on whether it is obliged under federal special-education laws to provide a sign-language interpreter for a fourth-grade student who is reported to be at the top of her class academically.
The Justice Department and a federal appellate court both agree with the lower court's ruling, which said the New York girl was entitled to attend regular public-school classes and to be provided with a sign-language interpreter.
Full-time Attendance Sought
Mrs. Norris said the school board had delayed her daughter's registration until last week despite the state panel's decision. She said the board had wanted to send her daughter back to the school for the deaf until the matter was decided in court.
The conflict began when Mrs. Norris argued earlier this year before the local school system's special-education placement committee that full-time attendance at a public school would aid her daughter's transition to normal life.
Members of the committee rejected the idea and suggested instead that the girl spend only part of her time in public school while continuing special-education classes at the school for the deaf.
"She lives in a hearing world," Mrs. Norris said of her daughter. ''The only time she's in a deaf world is when she's in the school for the deaf.
"I'm not saying that it's right for everyone, but it just happens that she wants to go to a public school," Mrs. Norris said.
Partial Mainstreaming Recommended
The committee recommended partial mainstreaming of Faith Norris, according to Michael Small, special-education supervisor for county schools, because it believed that Miss Norris would not be able to keep up with the workload. He said Miss Norris's academic level is higher than average among deaf students but considerably below the academic level of public-school students her age.
Mr. Small, a member of the committee that recommended part-time attendance at the public school, said the issue is not the cost of providing an interpreter.
"There's a larger issue born of her academic standing," Mr. Small said. "We're contending that ours is an appropriate education given her circumstances."
Mr. Small said when the committee offered a "partial mainstreaming plan," it agreed to follow her progress at 60-day intervals and gradually increase the time she could spend in the public school if the change seemed warranted.
Behind Grade Level
"There are very few profoundly deaf students who request complete mainstreaming," Mr. Small said. "We felt we should start her gradually since she is so far behind her grade level."
Mr. Small said that although she is an 11th grader, her academic level is that of a sixth grader.
Deaf students in the state are classified in levels one through six, based on the number of hours spent in public schools. The sixth level designates a student who attends the state school for the deaf.
Pending the outcome of the school board's current appeal, according to Mrs. Norris, her daughter's only aid will be the sign-language interpreter.