Independent Monitor To Be Appointed In Settlement In Orleans Disabilities Case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge Monday assured worried parents that attorneys for the government agencies running New Orleans public schools will work diligently to ensure disabled students are treated fairly under a proposed settlement in a 2010 lawsuit.

         The agreement includes a requirement that an independent monitor be appointed to help make sure terms of the agreement are met.

         The lawsuit settlement was announced in December. Monday evening's hearing was before U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey.

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         Last week, Zainey told attorneys on both sides to take steps to address undisclosed issues raised by a handful of opponents to the settlement.

         The 2010 lawsuit alleged public schools in New Orleans failed to meet the needs of students with a variety of disabilities, including bipolar and attention-deficit disorders. The agreement includes provisions for a system to identify children with disabilities, place them in schools and help them achieve educational goals.

         "No stone is going to be left unturned," Zainey told roughly a dozen parents, guardians and students in his courtroom.

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         The agreement followed years of on-again-off-again negotiations involving the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District, which oversees most public schools in New Orleans for the state.

         "Most of the time the better schools are not available to disabled kids," one tearful mother told Zainey as she described a fruitless attempt to get her son out of a school where he was being bullied.

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill

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