News

Judge rules in BSD's favor

By CHARLES MELTON

Editor

Less than three months after being the target of a lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Washington on behalf of the parents of six children with developmental disabilities, the Bremerton School District emerged victorious on Jan. 15 in the United States District Court.

The group sought a preliminary injunction on Nov. 21 in Thurston County Superior Court to prevent the district from moving the students from their current placement at Mountain View Middle School to to the Francis Haddon Morgan Center, a state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities. The suit was subsequently moved to the U.S. District Court because it involved federal as well as state laws.

In summarily dismissing the suit against the school district Judge Franklin D. Burgess wrote, “”The School District has not breached its statutory obligations. The School District gave early notice to DSHS/Morgan Center of its decision to close the junior high ... and offered its assistance in locating an alternative site.”

Burgess’ ruling echoed the response from the district’s attorneys Jeffrey Ganson and Lynette Baisch from the Seattle-based law firm of Dionne and Rorick, when the suit was originally filed.

Ganson and Baisch stated the the closing of the district’s junior high building significantly reduced the district’s classroom flexibility.

Because of that closure “the district offered to assist the center in locating another facility on or close to district property,” the district’s response stated.

Among those options was a portable classroom on the grounds of the district’s alternative school, the response continued.

“However, representatives from DSHS rejected these options,” it states. “Rather than pursuing other facilities suggested by the district, DSHS officials have decided to educate these students on the campus of the Morgan Center,” the response continued.

In the suit filed against the district, “the plaintiffs incorrectly attribute this decision to the district and incorrectly suggest that the district is required to secure physical facilities for plaintiffs’ education,” the district’s response concluded.

Both BSD Supt. Bette Hyde and BSD director of special education, assessment and school support Bob Hamilton were pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“We appreciate that the court has recognized our efforts to resolve this issue,” Hyde said. “We are working cooperatively with the Department of Social and Health Services and the Frances Haddon Morgan Center to make sure that we continue to provide an effective educational program and learning environment for these students.”

Hamilton said the district always provides a quality education to each child in the district, including those at the Frances Haddon Morgan Center.

“Because many of these students have very complex needs, we have designed individualized programs that provide them with not only academic supports, but access to community–based learning opportunities to help them with the development of life skills,” Hamilton said.

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