Friday, May 2, 2008

Special Education HO Awards Family $720,000

I just received a heads up that a Florida hearing officer has awarded a family $720,000. This story is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the size of the award is big, apparently resulting from a judicial finding that the school district denied a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student for two school years and the passage of time caused by appeals.
Second, a number of parents have left comments on this blog stating that they feel parents cannot win through the due process hearing system. This result would seem to show otherwise. I do not want to imply that it is easy for parents in special ed cases. The Rowley standard does not require a lot for FAPE to be provided. Where FAPE is denied, however, I believe that relief is available in most places through the due process hearing system.
Third, the amount paid to the parents is dwarfed by the amount shelled out for attorney fees. The District was ordered to pay the parents fees of $300,000. The district's own lawyer fees have exceeded $785,000. As Sen. Dirksen used to like to say "A million dollars here, a million dollars there, and pretty soon you're talking about big money!"
Thanks to Mark for the heads up. You can read more about this fascinating case at


  1. Thanks for sharing this. It both makes me sad that this happens, but gives me hope for my own situation. See my blog for more information: I am an attorney and a mom of a special needs child. I just filed a complaint of my own with the Oregon Dept of Education. I am alleging several violations of my son's procedural safeguards under IDEA, that have led to a denial of FAPE for an entire school year. It all seems like such a waste of resources for institutions that spend more money fighting parents rather than educating children.

  2. Thanks cynthia,

    I appreciate the comment.

    I believe that most districts prefer to spend the money on kids than litigation. There are a few counterexamples.

    Also there are some cases that must be tried and appealed because of the legal issue at stake, etc. I continue to believe, however, that mediation and IEP facilitation are better ways to go.