The family of a teenager with autism won an undisclosed amount of money for legal fees and tuition at a private school from the Moorestown Board of Education, which represents a New Jersey school district, after a settlement was reached in court-ordered mediation, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered mediation between the family and the school district after the district appealed its loss in a federal District Court. The lower court had ruled that the school district erred in not providing the boy with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) even though he was taken out of public school and placed in a private one.
Although appellate mediation is not automatically confidential, the parties can agree to keep the settlement confidential. In this case, the parties agreed to keep the amount of settlement under wraps.
With the settlement agreement, the district also agreed to drop its appeal of the family's special-education-access lawsuit.
"It seems like we're heading in the right direction," Scott Duman, the student's father, told The Inquirer. "I hope in the future the Moorestown school district would stop spending money on litigation and spend money on (services for) kids."
The case has been extremely costly for both sides. The family said it spent approximately $240,000 in legal fees, while Moorestown spent $150,000 in legal fees and obtained $125,000 in additional pro bono legal services, according to The Inquirer.
A case with similar facts has been raging in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with a D.C. school district fighting an injunction placed against it for failing to pay special education services on time. The D.C. Circuit recently ruled in its favor, ordering the lower court to give the injunction another look based on the district's timely payments.
- Moorestown Township Board of Education v. S.D. and C.D. on behalf of M.D. (Google Scholar)
- Special Education and Disability Access: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (FindLaw)
- Third Circuit Rules Race Not a Factor in LMSD Redistricting (FindLaw's Third Circuit blog)
- States Rated on Special Education Programs (FindLaw's Common Law)