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I was interested to read your report on the inadequate education received by learning disabled students in the juvenile justice system ("Criticism leveled at schools for Maryland juvenile offenders," Dec. 28).

If you had looked further you might have discovered that students with learning disabilities are not having their needs met in the comprehensive schools in the public education system of Maryland either.

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In our experience with the Howard County public school system we were told that the comprehensive, i.e. "regular" schools, "do not have the resources" to teach students with even fairly common learning disabilities such as ADHD.

In Howard County, parents often resort to paying thousands of dollars for private testing and educational consultants to try to get the services that the school is required to provide by law. The schools commonly recommend that parents look into private schools or home schooling as an alternative, with the financial burden that entails resting on the shoulders of the parents.

I have been working with the county school system for eight years trying to get my son's educational needs met. After years of administrators denying access to services, followed by years of teachers with little or no training trying to teach my son in a regular classroom with inadequate supports, my son was placed in the Gateway program at Homewood, a program for students with significant disciplinary problems. Although my son did not have the disciplinary problems which would have gotten him placed at Gateway, we were told that was the only school in the county where his educational needs could be met.

Ironically, my son is receiving the educational supports he has needed all along at Gateway, where the staff is dedicated and trained. Because of the high absentee rate, my son is frequently one of only a handful of students in each of his classes. And the frequent distractions of the other students' bad behavior provides him both entertainment and opportunities to be a good role model and leader.

Thanks to HCPSS, my son is developing resilience and valuable insight into a variety of behaviors he would not have been exposed to at Centennial High School, his home school. Unfortunately, he is often despondent that he is being "punished" for having learning disabilities, having been removed from his friends who remain at CHS. But, as his parents, we feel the damage that is being done by having him at Gateway pales by comparison to the damage that was done by having him at the comprehensive school where he was consistently given the message that he was incapable.

Patricia Haldeman Wise

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