A. B. v. Brownsburg Community School Corp., No. 22-1277 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
C.B., a minor, suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and ADHD. During the 2017-2018 school year, the Brownsburg School Corporation determined that C.B. was eligible for accommodations under the Rehabilitation Act. In 2019, C.B. brought a shotgun shell to school with a device believed capable of discharging the shell. Brownsburg recommended expulsion. Conferences and administrative hearings followed. In April 2020, Brownsburg offered to pay for a new independent education evaluation of C.B. and to revisit C.B.’s eligibility for an individualized education plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). C.B.’s parents agreed to various compromises if Brownsburg agreed to pay for all attorney’s fees. In July, Brownsburg indicated willingness to pay part of the fees. C.B.’s parents rejected Brownsburg’s offer and reinstated their initial demands. Brownsburg sought dismissal of the proceedings, citing its concessions and “extreme effort” to resolve this case short of an administrative hearing. The parents requested factual findings regarding attorney’s fees and acknowledgment as the “prevailing party.” The hearing officer ultimately adopted the parties’ concession regarding services for C.B. and dismissed the petitions.
C.B.’s parents sued for attorney’s fees under the IDEA’, 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(I). The district court granted Brownsburg summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the parents were the “prevailing party” and could be eligible for fees. Brownsburg's agreement to provide every student-related remedy set out in C.B.’s parents’ due process request was not binding until the hearing officer issued a finding.