Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Teen’s Family Awarded $183K in Attorney’s Fees

ATHENS, Ga. (CN) - A federal judge awarded the family of a student with disabilities $183,000 in attorney's fees after it prevailed on claims his high school failed to provide him with a potentially life-saving accommodation.

A.B. has a number of disabilities, including life-threatening seizures. In July 2014, his parents sued the Oconee County School District after it rejected their request that he be provided with an aide trained to administer his seizure medication as he rode to and from school on the bus.

Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Schroer ruled in favor of the family, finding A.B. was entitled to an individualized education plan that would provide for the trained medical aide they sought.

Schroer also ordered the district to reimburse his mother fifty percent of the costs she incurred driving him to and from school.

The school district appealed the case to federal court, but it also ultimately ruled in favor of the student and his family.

Like, Schroer, Chief U.S. District Judge Clay Land found the district committed both "procedural and substantive" violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Education Act.

Jonathan Zimring, who represented the family, said the issue all along was that A.B. could suffer a seizure while traveling between his home and school, and that there'd be "no one there to protect him."

"The school district cavalierly said they could call 911 to help him, which wasn't sufficient because it didn't guarantee medics could get there within the five-minute window that the medicine needs to be administered," Zimring told Courthouse News.

That delay put the student at risk of severe injury and death, the attorney said.

On Jan. 7, months after handing down his original ruling, Judge Land awarded the family $183,833 in attorney's fees and another $1,893 to pay the family's other court costs.

Attorney Harold Eddy Jr., of Harben, Hartley, & Hawkins LLP in Gainesville, Ga., represented the district. However, he no longer works for the firm and could not be reached for comment.

As for Zimring, he told Courthouse News he believes the case is important not just because of its outcome for his client, but because "there are thousands of children with seizure disorders who require adequate safety plans and school staff-required training to protect them while they're in school.

"Oconee School District's arbitrary refusal of three different doctors orders requiring a procedure commonly accepted and used throughout the United States is never explained and needed to change," he said.

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