Wyner, a partner with the law firm Wyner
& Tiffany which specializes in representing students with
disabilities and negotiated the settlement, said the settlement
amount represents a record payment in a special education case.
Ongoing Failure to Provide FAPE Damaged Child
The Application for Court Approval of Minors Compromise, approved by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess, states that the failure to provide services required by federal and state law resulted in permanent damage to [the students] academic, physical and social/emotional well-being, and has impaired his ability to function at the level at which he could have reasonably been expected to function "
Marcy J.K. Tiffany , who also represented the Manhattan Beach family, said this case should send a clear message to school districts that they cannot ignore the legal rights of special needs students with impunity. Sooner or later, the law will hold them accountable.
Most of the payments will go toward the future education and care of the student, now 17, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. (See Settlement Terms)
The family requests that the press not identify their child by name. He continues to be educated in the Manhattan Beach USD. This is the culmination of one familys six-year struggle to obtain services that are guaranteed by the law. They are happy that this process has finally come to an end, but extremely sad that it has taken so long for them to secure their childs legal rights, and that it has come at such a great loss to their childs academic and social well-being.
No amount of money can compensate for the school districts deliberate failure to provide an appropriate education at a crucial point in our sons life, said Deborah Porter. This will provide for his future well-being and we also hope this will force this school district, and all school districts, to do the right thing for other children.
The settlement, which was approved by the Court on August 10th, followed a strongly-worded decision by Judge Feess filed on December 20, 2004 , granting partial summary judgment in favor of the student and his parents, Deborah and John Porter. Judge Feess found Manhattan Beach USD and the California Department of Education ( CDE ) equally culpable.
case began in January 1999, when the students parents requested
a due process hearing claiming that Manhattan Beach USD had failed
to provide their child with a free appropriate public education.
Despite not being represented by counsel, the family prevailed in
the due process proceeding. In June 1999, the California Special Education
Hearing Office (SEHO) issued a decision finding that Manhattan
Beach USD had failed to provide the student with appropriate reading
and language instruction and socialization interventions. The District
was ordered to provide compensatory education to the student during
the 1999-2000 school year, but never complied with the SEHO decision.
In August 2000, after waiting over a year for the District to provide the compensatory services, the Porters sued Manhattan Beach USD and the CDE in U.S. District Court seeking to enforce the SEHO decision. The judge to whom the case was then assigned dismissed it on the ground that the Porters had to first exhaust administrative remedies by filing a compliance complaint with the CDE.
December 2000, the Porters appealed the dismissal to the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals, and at the same time filed a compliance complaint
with the CDE. The CDE issued a Compliance Report in March 2001 finding
that Manhattan Beach USD had not complied with the SEHO decision and
ordering both compliance with that decision and additional compensatory
education. However, Manhattan Beach USD also did not comply with the
corrective actions set forth in CDEs Compliance Report.
October 2002, the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the lawsuit
and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.
v. Board of Trustees of Manhattan Beach Unified School District et
al., 307 F. 3d 1064 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. denied,
537 U.S. 1194, 123 S. Ct. 1303, 154 L. Ed. 2nd 1029 (2003).
his December 2004 decision, Judge Feess stated, it seems that
the District has endeavored to use the power it has over [the students]
education as a means of retaliating against the Porters for their
criticisms of, and challenges to, the District.
interim relief, in a separate order entered on November 23, 2004,
Judge Feess transferred control over the students education
from the Manhattan Beach USD and the CDE to a Special Master, Ivor
Weiner, Ph.D. Under the settlement agreement, Manhattan Beach USD
and the CDE have been ordered to set aside approximately $1.1 million
to pay for the education of the student at the direction of the Special
The Manhattan Beach Unified School District and the California Department of Education will pay approximately $1.6 million for a special needs trust for the student and $2.4 million for a trust for his parents.
the remaining funds, $1.1 million will be spent on a court-appointed
special master who will continue to oversee the child's education
through June 2007. Approximately $1.7 million will go to the Wyner
and Tiffany law firm that represented the family over the past several
Release from Manhattan Beach Unified School District about Settlement
in Porter (August 18, 2005)
& Tiffany is a law firm that specializes in representing students
with disabilities and their parents in special education and civil
rights disputes with school districts and school district officials
who fail to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA), and comparable provisions of state law.