Rena C. v. Colonial School District, No. 17-1161 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an administrative due process complaint about a child's educational placement can result in an administrative hearing. At least 10 days before the hearing, the school district can extend a “10-day” settlement offer, 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(D)(i)(I)-(III). That offer limits a parent’s eligibility for attorney’s fees to only those fees accrued before the offer. If a parent rejects the offer, the parent may only receive attorney’s fees for work done after the offer if the hearing leads to more favorable relief than the offer included, or the parent was substantially justified in rejecting the offer. Rena filed a complaint against the Colonial School District to determine an appropriate placement for her daughter. Colonial extended and Rena rejected a 10-day offer. After a hearing, an administrative officer ordered a private school placement for the student. The district court awarded Rena attorney’s fees only for work performed before the offer. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that Rena was substantially justified in rejecting Colonial’s offer. Colonial made a valid offer of settlement and Rena did not receive more favorable relief in the administrative order but she was substantially justified in rejecting the offer because it did not address attorney’s fees.