Susan Freedman is a member of the School Law Practice Group. She represents school boards and independent schools with regard to education matters, the Americans with Disabilities Act and general litigation, including special education, at the administrative level and in state and federal courts. In her practice, Susan calls upon her 14 years of experience as a teacher.
She is a frequent speaker on education matters for CABE, CONN-CASE, the Connecticut Bar Association and other groups, and is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Connecticut.
Susan clerked for The Honorable John H. Pratt for the United States District Court District of Columbia.
In the first decision in Connecticut, and one of the only decisions in the country, a federal judge recently awarded a Connecticut school district attorneys’ fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). The case, E.K. by and through his Parents and Next of Friends, Mr. and Mrs. K. v. Stamford Board of Education, No. 07cv800 (Mar. 31, 2009), stemmed from a student’s challenge to his expulsion for making racial threats toward another student. In the spring of 2007, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut denied the student’s request for a preliminary injunction to require the district to readmit the student to his high school and allow him to participate in graduation ceremonies. After this denial, the student, through his attorney, essentially ignored the prosecution of his IDEA claim -- although he did not officially withdraw the claim for several months -- but maintained his other claims, due process and constitutional vagueness. The district moved for summary judgment; the student opposed this motion and filed his own motion for summary judgment.
In May 2008, the District Court granted the school district’s motion for summary judgment and, thereafter, the district filed with the District Court a request for attorneys’ fees against the student’s attorney. Specifically, the school district claimed that the attorney had pursued the claim under the IDEA after he knew the claim to be frivolous, and that he did so to harass or increase the cost of litigation. The Magistrate Judge, in granting the school district its attorneys’ fees, found that the school district was the prevailing party in the underlying litigation, because the District Court had granted the district’s motion for summary judgment in its entirety, and further found that the plaintiff’s attorney had continued to litigate the IDEA claims after he knew that the litigation had become frivolous. According to the decision, “after the Court denied injunctive relief . . . , plaintiff was clearly on notice of the deficiencies of his IDEA claim.” E.K., No. 07cv800 at *14. The plaintiffs’ attorney has since filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge’s ruling.
Plaintiff sued the West Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education for funding of a residential placement for plaintiff's son in order to receive an appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At the administrative hearing, the Hearing Officer found for the Board, holding that the Board's offer of a program in the high school the student would otherwise attend with special education and regular education services was an appropriate program for the student in the least restrictive environment. The plaintiff appealed the hearing officer's decision to the United States District Court of Connecticut in which the decision for the Board of Education was upheld. The plaintiff sought judgment in the United States 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the lower courts' rulings. A.S. v. Board of Education of West Hartford, 35 IDELR 179 (D. Conn 2001) 2d Cir. 2002.
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