I just received a heads up that a Florida hearing officer has awarded a family $720,000. This story is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the size of the award is big, apparently resulting from a judicial finding that the school district denied a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student for two school years and the passage of time caused by appeals.
Second, a number of parents have left comments on this blog stating that they feel parents cannot win through the due process hearing system. This result would seem to show otherwise. I do not want to imply that it is easy for parents in special ed cases. TheRowleystandard does not require a lot for FAPE to be provided. Where FAPE is denied, however, I believe that relief is available in most places through the due process hearing system.
Third, the amount paid to the parents is dwarfed by the amount shelled out for attorney fees. The District was ordered to pay the parents fees of $300,000. The district's own lawyer fees have exceeded $785,000. As Sen. Dirksen used to like to say "A million dollars here, a million dollars there, and pretty soon you're talking about big money!"
Thanks to Mark for the heads up. You can read more about this fascinating case at