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School officials in Georgia must take steps to educate children with emotional disabilities closer to their homes, instead of sending them to institutions out of state, according to a ruling this month by a federal judge.

The May 12 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Vining Jr. could affect more than a dozen disabled children in residential institutions, according to a lawyer for the state.

The ruling stems from a case brought by the family of Todd D., a young man with schizophrenia who was sent to institutions in Texas and Florida at age 17 because there were no appropriate facilities for him in the state. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1991.)

Lawyers for the family said the state's inability to serve him closer to home prevented him from making a successful transition into the community once he had "aged out'' of his school special-education program.

Under the ruling, state school officials are also required to provide 24 months of compensatory schooling for Todd D. at a Georgia mental institution, where he has some freedom to work in the community and visit his family.

To determine the number of other children who, like Todd D., might benefit from a similar arrangement, state school officials are required by the ruling to survey families and state and local agencies by the fall. The state has until 1993 to begin taking steps to "reintegrate'' many of those students in settings closer to home, the judge said.

An appeals court in New York State has ruled that Orange County officials should not be held liable for failing to warn school officials in East Coldenham of a tornado watch before a storm that killed nine schoolchildren in 1989.

The appellate division of the state supreme court reversed a lower-court ruling that the county emergency officials had a special responsibility to inform schools as well as the media about the impending storm on Nov. 16 of that year. The officials had to exercise their discretion in deciding who to inform, the court said.

During the tornado-like storm, a cafeteria wall collapsed at an elementary school in Newburgh, killing 9 and injuring 15. The parents of several of the 9 children sued the county for its failure to warn the school. (See Education Week, Nov. 22, 1989.)

An appeal of the decison is expected.

Other suits against the Valley Central School District for the design of the cafeteria wall are pending.

The California Board of Education this month gave its unanimous approval to a plan by private-school advocates to assume the duties of the state education department's defunct private-school office.

The May 8 action allows the California Association of Private School Organizations to set up an information-dissemination project for private schools through a one-year, $24,064 "priority project'' grant under Chapter 2 of the Hawkins-Stafford Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments. (See Education Week, April 1, 1992.)

The project, which is expected to get under way after July 1, will supply the state's 3,600 private elementary and secondary schools with information about federal, state, and local education programs and requirements.

The state's Office of Private Schools K-12 was closed as a result of budget cuts in November 1990, adding urgency to the advocates' plan, which dated from 1989.

"We're excited about trying to provide this service,'' Charles Rowins, the head of the St. James School in Los Angeles and the president of CAPSO, said last week.

Vol. 11, Issue 36, Page 3

Published in Print: May 27, 1992, as News Updates
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