UPDATE: An attorney representing Hampton City Schools filed a response Friday to a hearing officer's description of unethical behavior by School Board legal counsel.
The state-appointed officer, in a written case summary, said three attorneys representing the School Board implied they would cause problems with his payment if he didn't rule in their favor. He also described them as seeming unsympathetic to the request of the parent, who is fighting the School Board to receive a special interpreter for her disabled son.
In the response filed Friday, attorney Jason Ballum of Reed Smith writes that there are many aspects of the hearing officer's order with which the School Board disagrees. To see the response, click on the PDF to the left.
Yining Luo wants her disabled son to have a quality education. A dispute with Hampton City Schools puts that in jeopardy, she says.
An additional controversy between school lawyers and the state-appointed hearing officer assigned to the case is further complicating the issue, according to documents obtained by the Daily Press.
The district is using three lawyers to fight Luo's request for a special interpreter in 2011-2012 to help her legally deaf-blind 9-year-old son, Anbao Chen. He also has Down syndrome, mental retardation, autism and a developmental coordination disorder.
The School Board's legal counsel implied it will cause problems with billing and compensation for the hearing officer if he doesn't rule in the school system's favor, according to a case summary sent to all parties last week by Robin Gnatowsky.
Gnatowsky is the state-appointed hearing officer who will issue a ruling after a private hearing Monday at Hampton City Schools' central office. State-appointed hearing officers are paid equally by the state education department and the school system involved in each case, according to Virginia state code.
The School Board is represented by in-house attorney Nanci Reaves and two lawyers from the Richmond firm Reed Smith who are experienced in special education issues.
"(The threat of causing billing issues) has been done before in other cases by this law firm," Gnatowsky wrote. "If there is any indication whatsoever that hearing officer billing will be used in this way, it will be dealt with firmly and directly."
A complaint will be filed with the Virginia State Bar against each attorney who attempts any "improper influence over the hearing officer system," he wrote.
By Samieh Shalash, firstname.lastname@example.org, 247-4537
Source: Daily Press