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Parent Who Loses IDEA Case Is Not Liable for School District's Attorney's Fees, Unless the Claim is Frivolous
Parents can breathe a sigh of relief now that the Ninth Circuit has decided the case of RP Prescott Unified School District. In that case, parents sued a school district, contending that the special education services for their autistic son were inadequate. But they lost, and rubbing salt in the wound, the trial court awarded the winning school district a whopping $140,000 in legal fees that had been incurred to defend the case.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the fee award, holding that the attorney's fees provision in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. §§1400, et seq.) is basically a one-way street. If a parent wins against the school district, fees can be awarded; but if they lose, there is no liability for the district's fees unless the court finds that the claim was "frivolous."
A copy of the court's opinion is attached for your convenience.
At Slote & Links we regularly advise parents, educators and school districts and private schools about education law issues. Feel free to give us a call if you have a problem in this area.