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Plaintiffs: Jeanne Allen, Patricia Jackson, Alfretta Tyler-Green, Carol Golphin, Natarsha Guest, Shirley Nesbitt, Brenda Allen, Diane Talley, Jeanette Williams, Sophia Wright, and Wanda Ashford
Defendant: D.C. government
Damages Sought: $77,892.37, plus attorneys’ fees
Complaint: The 11 plaintiffs are all parents who sued the D.C. Public Schools to get private-school placements for their children with special needs (“A Special Education: How to get your child a private education at a public-school price,” 8/22). Under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, students are guaranteed a “free appropriate public education,” and if the local public school district can’t provide one, it has to pay to send the child to one that can—a contentious process that often results in high-stakes hearings and hefty legal bills. Each of the 11 parents won their hearings, which took place between March and July of this year, but the city has so far rejected or ignored their invoices for attorneys’ fees, which they are entitled to recover. They want the fees paid, plus the fees for litigating to get them paid.
Quality of Representation: Excellent. Attorneys Roxanne D. Neloms and Domiento C.R. Hill do a fine job, detailing each of the 11 cases, thoroughly and exhaustively citing the points of law guaranteeing attorneys’ fees in such cases. You’d do a good job, too, if it was to collect your $80,000 paycheck.
Summary Judgment: Is it really worth it to fight this? Dozens upon dozens of special-ed cases get litigated in administrative and federal courts every year, so it’s not like the District has never heard of paying attorneys’ fees in these suits. True, it would be nice if this money could be used for actually improving DCPS to the point where private placements could be eliminated, but, unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Pay up, D.C.