Wednesday, September 08, 2004

How Not To Do It

I don't know the plaintiff in Michael D.M v. Pemi-Baker Regional School District, and it may be that the hearing officer and District Court judge have him all wrong, but on reading the opinion of the Court of this case, I see the poster child case for not allowing attorneys' fees in IDEA cases (not that plaintiff got them in this case). The plaintiff's son is a high IQ child who suffers from ADHD and other learning disabilities. Despite these disabilities, he has done quite well in school, even taking honors classes in English and algebra. The plaintiff, however, according to the Court, has totally failed to cooperate with the district in putting together a workable IEP, and has basically been playing hardball with the district, filing various lawsuits, including one for defamation, seeking to have two special educators fired, and filing a discrimination claim against the district with the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. It appears from the decision that his son's ski team participation was at least as important to the plaintiff as his education. The Court noted that the son missed six days of school during a six-week period because of his participation on the ski team, that the plaintiff prohibited the district from reducing or eliminating his son's participation in the school team if he failed to do his homework and that the plaintiff had sought to have his son placed in a private school, including one that focused on skiing skills. It saddened me that anomolous cases like this will be trotted out to show that parents are cynically malipulating the law to obtain benefits to which they are not entitled, when the opposite is the case. The decision in this case, which was decided on August 31, 2004, can be found at the website for the District Court for the District of New Hampshire (you will have to do a search to find it).


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