Schools in N.Y.C. Are Said Prepared For New Procedures on Handicapped
New York City school officials are "well prepared" to implement by Sept. 30 court-ordered procedures for the identification, evaluation, and placement of emotionally disturbed students, said Robert E. Hanlon, the board of education's director of compliance for the division of special education.
A federal judge last month approved the new rules, concluding a nine-year court fight, Lora v. Board of Education of the City of New York. The school district's previous system of evaluating and placing students identified as emotionally handicapped "was racially segregated and discriminatory,"Judge Jack B. Weinstein, in the Eastern District of New York, wrote in a 1977 finding that the system violated minority students' due-process rights.
Mr. Hanlon said that many of the procedures ordered in the plan--such as a requirement for parental notification--are already in place.
The Lora case, a class action by parents of minority students enrolled in special day schools for students with behavioral problems, was brought in early 1975 before Congressional passage of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, that same year, Mr. Hanlon said. A similar case, Jose P. v. Ambach, filed in 1979, is still being litigated. The two legal developments necessitated the implementation of some of the newly ordered procedures, he added.
Mr. Hanlon noted several aspects of the new guidelines: a call for greater sensitivity on the part of city evaluators to cultural and linguistic factors in a child's behavior; a requirement for bilingual evaluations; a requirement for behavioral observations of students; and requirements for reporting and data collection.
The city estimates the annual cost of hiring bilingual evaluators and implementing the on-site observation practice will be about $760,000, according to Mr. Hanlon.
There were 111,622 special-education students in city schools as of last March, according to system records; there are now about 3,000 "Lora class" students in special day schools.
Judge Weinstein found in 1977 that the city's system for evaluating students assigned to special day schools was unconstitutional. In 1980, upon the city's appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case for clarification.
Judge Weinstein then ordered the creation of an eight-member panel to write new nondiscriminatory procedures. The panel finished its work in 1982, and lawyers for the students and city have been negotiating the final product, which was completed last spring and approved by the judge on Aug. 2.--jh