Rule One: Don’t Make the Judge Mad

Maybe the case of Wood v. Katy ISD is finally over.  Perhaps now the parents of the student, who must be in his mid-20s, will quit arguing over the student’s IEP for 2006-07.  The federal district court in Houston ruled decisively in favor of the district on this one, in which the parents sought reimbursement for tuition at a private residential school in Vermont.

This special education case was decided by a special education due process hearing officer over six years ago, on February 7, 2009.  The IHO ruled for Katy ISD, and the parents appealed to federal court.  Now, at last, we have a ruling on that appeal. Again, the KISD prevails.

Our special education system is supposed to resolve disputes swiftly.  It makes little sense to get a ruling about an IEP from 2006 in 2015.  Much of the problem here seemed to stem from the complexity of the administrative record.  The judge found the administrative record voluminous and disorganized. She ordered the parties to file amended motions addressing two key issues, and to keep the paperwork to 50 pages or less.  One party complied with that order, the other did not. Here’s how Judge Melinda Harmon put it:

While KISD complied with the Court’s order, Plaintiffs’ submission is still voluminous, contains documents that are not part of the official administrative record, an absence of citations to the record to support their assertions, and irrelevant and/or incompetent summary judgment evidence. The Court does the best it can with the current record and again reminds the parties that it is not obligated to “sift through the record in search of evidence” to support a party’s opposition to a motion for summary judgment.

Suffice it to say that it’s not a good idea to irritate the judge.  The judge had good reasons for ruling for Katy ISD on this case. The evidence showed that the student consistently performed well, the district brought in respected experts to support its case, and all procedural requirements were satisfied.

But it didn’t help the parents’ cause that the judge was irritated with their lawyer.

The case is Wood v. Katy ISD, decided by Judge Harmon for the Southern District of Texas on September 30, 2015. We found it at 66 IDELR 158.