Solana Beach Schools to Pay $1M in Legal Fees

A long-running legal dispute that could have been settled with a $6,100 tuition payment to a private school will end up costing the Solana Beach School District nearly $1 million.

Kate Doyle is now a thriving 11-year-old, doing well at a school in Utah. But when she was entering preschool in Solana Beach, her mother Kyla Doyle says she wanted her autistic child to be placed in a general education classroom and given support.

Doyle did not want Kate placed with severely disabled students and given visits to general education classroom. Doyle says when the district could not provide that, she sent her daughter to private school. When the district refused to pay the $6,100 tuition, she took the case to court.

A federal court ruled in Doyle's favor under the federal guarantee of a free and appropriate education. The school district appealed the ruling, and when it lost, it attempted to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bottom line is this: After seven years, the legal fees for both sides amount to nearly $1 million, and a judge has ruled the district must be the one to pay.

“It makes me sad so much money, over that amount of time, was really wasted, and I think it's sad that didn’t go to education programs and improving Solana Beach,” Doyle said.

District Superintendent Nancy Lynch said the district did not want to start a precedent where parents could unilaterally say they don't like the program provided by the district, a program she says is equal or superior to other programs. Lynch also said the attorney for the Doyle family charged fees that were beyond reason.

The firm representing the district did not return our calls or request for comment about why the lawyers continued to litigate the case.

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