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Disabled students in Indiana are waiting too long for placements in private residential facilities, a federal judge has ruled.

In his ruling last month, U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano noted that, from 1988 to 1991, students whose individualized education plans called for placement in private facilities waited an average of 200 days for those placements to occur.

That kind of "systematic delay,'' Judge Lozano said, violates the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The ruling came in a case being brought against the state by severely disabled children and their parents who contend they are not receiving adequate special-education services. A trial on other questions raised by the lawsuit is scheduled for next month.

Last week, however, state education department officials disputed the delay estimates cited by the judge.

"It's never taken any single kid that long to be placed,'' said Kevin McConnell, the lawyer representing the department. He said state school officials had not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.

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