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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Board of Regents to consider change in statute of limitations

Presently, Federal law applies a two-year statute of limitation, except where the state prescribes an explicit time limitation for requesting a hearing. At its Monday meeting, the NYS Board of Regents will consider a State Ed proposal to shorten the statute of limitation. State Ed seeks to “[a]mend Education law to provide that a due process hearing must be requested within one year of the date the parent or district had knowledge of the issue, with exceptions as required by federal law and with an exception that for parents seeking tuition reimbursement, such request must be made within 180 days of the date the parent placed his/her child in the private school.” State Ed reasons that “[a] statute of limitations of more than one year to request an impartial hearing is programmatically inappropriate since IEPs are developed for one year. IDEA due process procedures should be designed to resolve disputes within one year so that any resulting changes needed to assure that the student receives a free appropriate public education are made in time to benefit the student.” I’m sure that State Ed also reasons that shortening the statute of limitations on reimbursement claims would be a much easier way to nip in the bud the financial cost of private school reimbursement, rather than focusing on the rampant problems in school districts, NYC in particular, which problems have given rise to these reimbursement claims.

See here for a list of the many items that the Board of Regents will be considering changing on Monday. Items include CSE composition, evaluation of preschoolers, 3602-c services and notice timelines. Note also that some of these items would require legislative change. The proposed change to the statute of limitations is one of the items that would require legislative action.

Update (3/7/11): Due to inclement weather, the Board of Regents postponed discussion of the above items until its April meeting.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Counterclaim filed after expiration of statute of limitations is permitted by 5th Circuit

RUBEN v. EL PASO (5th Cir. 2011): Parent appealed the decision of the state administrative agency on the last day of the 90 day period in which an appeal was permitted. District then filed a counterclaim. District Court dismissed the counterclaim reasoning that it was filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations. The 5th Circuit reinstated the claim reasoning that the statute of limitations applies to the filing of an “action” and that a counterclaim is not an “action.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SDNY awards attorney fees to parent who prevailed via pendency; denial of attorneys fees as denial of FAPE

J.S. and S.S. v. Carmel Central School District: Parents privately placed and filed a hearing request in which they sought reimbursement. Pendency was the private placement. Due to protracted proceedings, the District had to pay for the placement as pendency for a two year period. Parents then made a claim for attorney fees and the District filed a motion to dismiss. Prior case law (O’Shea v. Bd. of Educ., 521 F. Supp. 2d 284 (S.D.N.Y. 2007)) had rejected an attorney fee claim in similar, albeit not the same circumstances. In O’Shea, the litigation of the prior and present claims overlapped; here, the prior action had concluded. The Court found that this was sufficient to distinguish the present case. But, in any event, the Court viewed O’Shea as wrongly decided. Thus, the Court denied the District’s motion to dismiss the Parents’ claim for attorney fees. Of import, the Court noted that the denial of attorneys fees “would effectively deny plaintiffs the free appropriate education guaranteed by the IDEIA. After all, if plaintiffs must pay thousands of dollars in attorneys fees to secure appropriate public education, then that education can hardly be called free.” (Note that this is a SDNY case outsourced to a Maryland judge).

OSEP: Notice of intent to seek reimbursement not required in subsequent years

For the parent who seeks reimbursement for a private placement, the general rule is that she must provide written notice of the intent to seek reimbursement from the public school district 10 days prior to removal of the child from the public school district or must advise the district of the same at the last CSE meeting prior to removal. OSEP, in a recent memo, stated that a parent who provides notice of intent to seek reimbursement in year one, does not have to provide such notice again in subsequent years.