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Team Gains State Award for Student with Autism

(September 2008) -- Erik NortonErik Norton along with Jennifer Mallory and co-counsel Elizabeth Robinson, Esq., won a victory for a Student Advocacy Project client in a complaint to the State Department of Education. The district and parent agreed at mediation on terms of a settlement that required the district to pay $15,000 in partial reimbursement for tuition at a residential therapeutic school for the student with autism. The district, however, would not sign off on the mediated agreement without school board approval. The board subsequently refused to ratify the agreement.

A complaint was filed on behalf of the client with the SDE alleging that the district failed to comply with the mediation agreement and did not mediate in good faith because it did not send personnel with appropriate authority to negotiate. The SDE agreed with Mr. Norton and Ms. Mallory’s position and awarded the Jennifer Malloryparent $15,000 as a corrective action. The SDE found that the parent still maintains her claims for full reimbursement as well because the mediator failed to ensure the “fundamental fairness” of the mediation process.

“School districts often use the tactic of agreeing at mediation, but making it contingent on board approval as leverage against the parents,” Mr. Norton said. “This decision makes it clear this practice is improper and is a significant victory for parents attempting to negotiate with districts.”