Questions raised earlier this year over the Fayette County Public Schools' programs for students with emotional and learning disabilities have now morphed into a Fayette Circuit Court case.
And the case could potentially affect the way the county school system provides assistance for such students.
At issue is an administrative complaint filed with the state Department of Education last February by the Children's Law Center, a non-profit legal group with offices in Lexington. The complaint cited 12 middle and high school students who allegedly were denied special education services by the Fayette district. It further contended that the school district systematically fails to identify and help such students in violation of the U.S. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
In September, the education department issued a report on the complaint, finding that the school district had violated various regulations in the cases of seven of the students. The report directed the school district to take corrective steps such as providing additional staff training and offering compensatory services for some students.
Now, the school system has filed suit asking Fayette Circuit Court to overturn the state's findings. The findings are "arbitrary and capricious" and some of the corrective steps imposed are inconsistent with a U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, the lawsuit argues.
Defendants in the suit are Kentucky Education Secretary Terry Holliday, acting in his capacity as chief of the state education department, and the Children's Law Center.
The law center has filed several motions and memorandums asking the court to dismiss the school district's suit, and requesting that the original 12 students be allowed to intervene in the case.
The law center's original complaint alleged that those 12 students failed to get needed special education services from the Fayette schools, in some cases despite repeated requests from parents or guardians. As a result, the complaint charged, some of the students ultimately were transferred to the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, the county district's alternative school.
In addition to seeking specific remedies for the 12 students, the law center's original complaint asked the state for "systemic relief," including the appointment of a nationally recognized expert to help the Fayette schools developing policies to prevent future problems.
The state, however, included no directives on that request in its findings.