The Prince William County School Board said last week that allegations against a special education program brought by teacher Mary Wilds at a board meeting May 21 are "without merit."

The board's statement, made through School Board attorney Joseph Dyer, came after a two-week investigation by school staff into Wilds' charges that her third-grade handicapped students at Sudley Elementary School have been routinely deprived of necessary equipment and therapy services. Wilds told the board she intended to resign her position because of the way those policies affect her eight students, who are orthopedically impaired. All these students are unable to walk and some also do not have the use of their arms.

In its statement, the board said it feels "a great deal of compassion" for its handicapped students and is confident that the comprehensive service available to them affords the students a free, appropriate public education.

The purpose of the program for orthopedically impaired students is to meet the educational needs of the students, the statement said. The occupational and physical therapy services recommended by the students' doctors must be provided by the school system "only if educationally based." The existence of a medical need for these services does not necessarily equate with an educational need, the statement said.

Charles Cohenour, whose second-grade daughter Leah has cerebral palsy, also complained to the board on May 21, saying his child has routinely been denied the use of a computer she needs to read and gets inadequate physical therapy. The family has retained a lawyer to fight the cutbacks in his daughter's care, Cohenour said.

The statement said that a teacher who has concerns about the school system should follow an official grievance procedure and parents of handicapped students should go through the "prescribed legal procedure for a binding resolution" of any dispute.