How frustrated would you be if you felt that your child became suicidal because your school district refused to address or acknowledge his autism? Now imagine if during the educational court proceeding to settle the dispute with the district, the state-appointed hearing officer serving as judge and jury was caught sleeping multiple times during testimony. This nightmare was the reality for one Houston family who told their local FOX affiliate that the fate of their special needs child was up for judgement by a man who "was actually sleeping for extended periods of time" during their "Due Process" educational court proceeding.
"In Texas, when the parents of special needs children disagree with the way their public school is educating their kid and efforts at compromise fail, there is often only one recourse to settle the dispute. It's called 'Due Process', an educational court proceeding in which a state-appointed hearing officer listens to the issues and serves as judge and jury.
Larry Craddock was presiding at just such a hearing when he was captured on cell phone camera snoozing through testimony. Attorney Silver estimates Craddock slept through a quarter of the proceedings.
'We dropped water bottles. We tried coughing, we tried jumbling our books to help stir him awake, but it wasn't working,' said parent Donna Harvey.
Parents who engage in a 'due process hearing' often expend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting school districts with much deeper pockets.
Most of the time parents lose."
Craddock announced he would resign shortly after declining to comment to an e-mail sent by FOX 26 including video, still pictures and witness affidavits to his naps during the critical hearing. Craddock had refused to step down until Friday, claiming he was only asleep for a few minutes during the three-day hearing and not hours as the Ryan's parents and their lawyer claim. After presented with video evidence and a demand by the parents that he pull out of the case, Craddock resigned and apologized for falling asleep, blaming his drowsiness on medication and also insisted that it was the lawyer's responsibility to wake him up.
FOX 26 reports that this is not Craddock's first battle with remaining awake during critical testimony. In a grievance filed with the state in 2006, a Houston-area family accused Craddock of falling asleep 15 times during their due process hearing. No action was taken by the state and Cardiac ruled in favor of the school district.
Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told FOX 26 that Craddock's cases will be re-assigned to other hearing officers.
Video of the judge asleep on the job: