Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Jun 12
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by Doug Goldberg

Almost six years ago the parents of a child with autism sat in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting and disagreed with the Schools offer of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). The parents’ felt their child, Chuka Chibougwu, was not being provided an appropriate education and exercised their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to disagree with the School District’s offer and request a due process hearing. This caused the School District to put a bulls-eye on the backs of Mr. & Mrs. Chibougu and try their best to bankrupt this family. The School District that was trying to financially ruin this family was the Alief Independent School District in Texas and the story that played out was nothing short of amazing.

Chuka’s Parents not wanting to fight any longer asked that their due process complaint against the School District be dismissed in favor of educating their child at home. Alief who had already filed a counter-complaint decided to continue with their complaint and ask a hearing officer to determine whether the Chibougwus’ original complaint was improper. In his decision, the Hearing officer did provide some relief to the School District but did NOT find that the Chibougwu’s complaint was improper. This was not enough for Alief and they filed a lawsuit in federal court for reimbursement of their legal expenses arguing that the original complaint brought by the Chibougwus’ was both improper and included harassment. This lawsuit was filed in March of 2008 but was later dismissed by the Judge. Alief, still not satisfied, appealed the dismissal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s dismissal and remanded the case back stating that the court should rule on:

(1) whether C.C.’s parents’ administrative complaint “was presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, to cause unnecessary delay, or to needlessly increase the cost of litigation, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(III); and (2) if so, whether the district court, in its discretion, considers it appropriate to award attorneys’ fees against the parents, id. § 1415(i)(3)(b)(i).

Fast forward to June of 2012 almost six years after that fateful IEP meeting and we finally have a ruling. In the case of Alief Independent School District VS C.C. it was concluded that:

The Court denies the plaintiff’s (Alief) motion and grants the defendants’ (Chibougwus’) motion. Parents have a vested interest in the proper education of their children. Inevitably, school districts and the parents of a child with special needs will occasionally disagree concerning what constitutes the appropriate education of that child. Although such disagreements may become prolonged and adversarial, that does not necessarily mean that the parents are defending their perception of their child’s best educational interests for an improper purpose. Accordingly, the Court exercises its discretion to decline awarding attorney’s fees to the plaintiff.

The Judge went on to say, “Even if the process was acrimonious, that does not mean it was impermissible. Accordingly, the Court holds that the plaintiff is not entitled to attorney’s fees.” Take a few minutes to watch the video below on the story and the interview with Chuka’s Parents. As they state very eloquently, "Somebody had to stand up. We didn't ask for this. We didn't want this fight because we wanted anything out of it. All that we asked is to help our child.





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One Response to “Judge to School District, “No Legal Fees for You!””

  1. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Chibougwu! We are in Sacramento, and this is currently happening to us. The district filed for hearing against us and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than grant an IEE. They have retaliated against us and our son. Even though he is homeschooled and no longer under the district’s education, they are still trying get sanctions against my husband and come after us for their legal fees.. The truth is….there is no justice for our kids, they have no rights. It doesn’t matter what rights we are supposed to have to be equal members of our child’s IEP team. The California Department of Education allows the misconduct, retaliation, document alteration, and not following the IEP. We cannot even get all of his educational records which we are entitled to. They know we do not have the money to fight the wrongdoings….I cannot pay an attorney and pay for the therapy and educational services my child needs, so we keep pressing forward alone. And they know that most parents will not have the fortitude to endure the battle that they wage against us. There is no justice for all that they have done and are currently doing to harm my son. I can only hope that Karma catches up with these people eventually. For now, we keep swimming…..alone in the shark infested waters. But today, I feel a little spark of hope for all parents who are being bullied and beat up by their school district for advocating for their child…..because these parents had the courage to stand strong.

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