The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has ruled that a Montgomery County couple cannot sue their children's school for "educational malpractice."

The couple, Joseph and Phyllis Hunter, filed a suit in county circuit court in 1977 asking for $600,000 in damages against the Montgomery County Board of Education. The Hunters charged that in 1968 their son Ross, now 19, had been placed in second grade but was forced to repeat "first grade material" despite the fact that he had done well.

As a result, Ross was afflicted with "internal psychological scars which today hinder his ability to learn or be tested on what he has learned."

The Hunters also charged that the school system had given them false reports and altered their son's records.

Maryland's second highest court, in the first ruling of its kind in the state, said Monday that the parents did not have legal ground on which to bring a suit against the county school system. Chief Judge Richard P. Gilbert drew on decisions reached by California and New York courts, writing that teachers could not be held liable for damages "for failure to see that Hunter drank from the well of knowledge."

In its opinion, the court declared that if suits charging educational malpractive were allowed, parents might bring damage claims "every time a child failed a grade, subject, or test, with the result that teachers could possibly spend more time in lawyers' offices and courtrooms than in the classroom."

"It's the first case where the theory that teachers should be held accountable as any other professional class," said Paul V. McCormick, who represented the Board of Education. "The court stated that can't be the case. The court doesn't believe it should interfere with the running of schools or educational systems."