Fresno Unified, Uribe family embroiled in new court case

The Fresno BeeApril 21, 2014 

Alice de Alba-Uribe, right, and her daughter, Krista Uribe in a 2012 photo.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — THE FRESNO BEE Buy Photo

The Fresno Unified School District and a family that has beat the district three times in administrative court are now entangled in a second federal court case.

The district is challenging an administrative judge's decision in January to award 22-year-old Krista Uribe adult education programs to make up for services she never received. Uribe has special needs and was twice removed from her former high school because of her disabilities.

The case involving Uribe and her mother Alice de Alba-Uribe has become a legal cobweb: Uribe's mother has fought and won three administrative hearings and is now wrangling with the district over two separate federal court cases. The district has spent nearly $400,000 in legal costs contending with the Uribes.

In one of the cases, the district is seeking relief from a 2012 administrative court decision and to recoup attorney's fees.

The other was filed by the district Friday, and appeals the Jan. 23 administrative judge's order. The suit alleges presiding Judge Margaret Broussard's decision was wrong and that she decided matters outside her jurisdiction.

Sang-Jin Nam, a private attorney hired to defend the district, on Monday did not return messages left by The Bee.

The district did not respond to specific questions about the appeal.

But spokeswoman Susan Bedi said the district filed the appeal "to clarify which of the decisions the district is required to honor," referencing the January decision and a separate, unrelated federal order from October 2013.

That order was from Judge Michael Seng -- who is handling the parties' initial federal court case. He denied de Alba-Uribe's request to add additional claims for review.

The family's attorney, Tania Whiteleather, said the district is confusing the matter, noting that Seng has not yet ruled on the substance of that federal court case.

De Alba-Uribe said she wasn't surprised by the appeal in the other case, but said the ongoing legal battle has become tantamount to harassment. She said her daughter no longer goes to school within the district -- she aged out of special education services last year -- but deserves the services Broussard ordered.

"My daughter can't even move on," de Alba-Uribe said. "It's like, you continue to harass us, for what? Because you guys can't accept the fact that you made the errors, not me, not my daughter."

De Alba-Uribe has maintained that her daughter was discriminated against and unable to get special education services when she attended Duncan Polytechnical High School. When Uribe was disenrolled twice by school administrators without de Alba-Uribe's permission, she decided to push back.

The legal fight has been costly. De Alba-Uribe says she lost thousands in lost wages from time she took off work to prepare for the cases. Fresno Unified has spent more than $360,000 in attorneys fees since February 2012 on the cases, plus $8,665 on transcripts of the most recent administrative hearing. The district did not respond Monday to The Bee's request for an updated fee total.

Whiteleather said the recent appeal only adds to the bill.

"All he's doing is running up fees," she said of the school district's attorney, Nam. "What a loss for the school district, what a waste."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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