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Court Refuses To Stop E.D. From Withholding Funds From Ga.

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District Washington--An appellate court has refused to stop the Education Department from cutting off federal funding to the DeKalb County, Ga., public schools in a case involving a challenge to the authority of the department's office for civil rights to investigate certain special-education complaints.

Arguments in the case have been scheduled for next month.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Jan. 29 that the district had not "shown that it will face irreparable harm" if a stay of the funding cutoff were not granted.

In addition, the court ruled that the district had not demonstrated that it was clearly likely to prevail in the case.

On Jan. 30, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court also denied a request for a stay.

Carter Phillips, a Washington lawyer who is representing the district, said it is "far from clear" whether the schools would lose some $7 million in federal funds for the current year that are being with8held should the case be decided against DeKalb County.

"The last I heard from the Department of Education is that if they bring themselves fully into compliance, they will get the funds retroactively," Mr. Phillips said.

The case, which began its long journey through the legal system in 1986, involves eight complaints from parents about the treatment of their handicapped children. (See Education Week, Sept. 5, 1990.)

One complaint that had been publicized involved the district's refusal to pay for residential placement. Recent court documents reveal that other complaints allege inappropriate placements in special education, inadequate transportation, violations of procedural rights, improper evaluation of handicapped students, and inappropriate use of disciplinary measures.

The district argues that the Education of the Handicapped Act is the sole vehicle through which parents may contest the placement of disabled children, and that the ocr has no authority to investigate such claims as civil-rights violations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

DeKalb County further contends that regulations for Section 504 concerning educational placement overstep the statute, and that the district does not have to cooperate with an ocr investigation if the agency does not have proper jurisdiction.

The agency argues that the regulations are valid and enforceable, and that, in any case, the district must allow them to investigate the complaints or face a cutoff of funding.--j.m.

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