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School Districts Permitted To Seek Attorney’s Fees For Frivolous IDEA Complaints

In Barney v. Akron Board of Education, No. 5:2016cv00112, an Ohio federal court determined that an Ohio school district may seek attorney’s fees and litigation expenses against individuals filing frivolous due process complaints under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).

This case involved an administrative complaint filed by the parents of a student who received special education services under the IDEA. A hearing officer found against the parents and the parents appealed the decision to a federal court. Throughout the proceedings, the parents continued to elongate the proceedings by filing meritless motions.

Eventually, the school district filed a motion to dismiss the due process appeal and sought their attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. The federal court agreed with the school district that the parents were harassing the school district and seeking to increase litigation expenses by extending the length of the case. The court also found that the defending school district could seek attorney’s fees and litigation expenses under the IDEA’s fee-shifting provision.

This is the second known time that an Ohio federal court has allowed a school district to seek fees from the parent of a student who filed a frivolous case and demonstrates courts willingness to allow school districts to recover their costs in IDEA cases.

To read this case, please click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling, Patrick Vrobel, and John Sulik

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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