NORWALK — The “permanent” neurological damage suffered by four autistic children at the hands of an illegitimate special education consultant hired by the city’s public schools in 2007 should negate the technicality used to throw out the original lawsuit, the families’ attorney argued to the Supreme Court.

The families of the four children filed suit against the city, school district and Board of Education in 2011. They claimed a series of negligent acts that led to the hiring of Stacy Lore, who falsely claimed to be an autism specialist and provided services to special education students for more than a year, ultimately stunted the development of their children.

In 2017, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Povodator dismissed the suit, stating the plaintiffs failed to exhaust all “administrative remedies,” as required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), before pursuing claims of discrimination.

Angelo Ziotas, the Stamford attorney whose firm represents the families, argued before the state Supreme Court Monday that the technicality used to toss the case was based on a “misapplied and misinterpreted” reading of a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later that year.

In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, Ziotas argued, the U.S. Supreme Court found that plaintiffs did not have to exhaust all state-level administrative remedies when a lawsuit was not related to “the denial of free appropriate education.”

Justice Gregory D’Auria, along with other justices, questioned the alleged connection between the Supreme Court ruling and the case at hand, though.

“It seems like the Fry decision goes through great lengths to have us look at the substance of the complaint and not just how its styled by the plaintiff, and that seems to be a little bit in conflict with just the strict statutory construction of whether we are talking about federal claims, but looking at the substance of the claims to see if we’re dealing with the free and appropriate education. How do you reconcile those two?” D’Auria asked.

Ziotas also pointed to a recent appeals court case in Massachusetts, Doucette v. Georgetown Public Schools, which found that the exhaustion requirement didn’t apply to certain cases.

“The Doucette decision that was issued a month ago is the most important case that addresses how we address these various issues,” Ziotas argued. “What’s clear in Doucette, and I think why it’s so important in our case, is they make clear that exhaustion is futile when you have a permanent neurological injury like alleged Doucette, seizures causing a neurological injury, or in our case, autism being impacted during this critical window.”

The question at the heart of the case, justices like D’Auria pointed out, is whether it revolved around the delivery of services — which falls under the “free appropriate education” category used to toss the original lawsuit.

The defense argued it was a delivery of services issue, which should have been pursued through the normal remedial channels in the immediate years after the services were rendered. Ziotas, on the other hand, argued that the damage done to the children was caused not by delivery of services, but the negligent hiring of Lore in the first place.

In 2007, Lore’s company Spectrum Kids LLC., was hired by the Board of Education to provide services to students with autism or autism-related diagnoses. All of the children in the suit received at least three months of services from Lore between March 2007 and August 2008, during which time Lore received roughly $168,000 from the district.

According to the suit, Lore claimed to hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from Mercy College, a master's in clinical psychology from New York University, a master's in special education with a concentration in communication disorders and autism from St. John's University, and a doctorate in behavior analysis from NYU. She also claimed to be a certified special education teacher, a special education itinerant teacher, a licensed clinical psychologist, and a board-certified behavior analyst.

Lore held only a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), but the school board failed to verify her claims or complete a sufficient background check, according to the lawsuit.

Parents began to learn the truth about Lore’s background when questions were raised in spring 2008. Former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal launched an investigation, which led to Lore’s conviction.

Though Lore has since been convicted of first-degree larceny, sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay the families restitution, the families argue that the city and its school board had not yet been penalized.

“There is no dispute that they had a caregiver provided by the town of Norwalk who was a criminal, who fraudulently presented her credentials and had no credentials. And over the course of months with each one of these children, they regressed and suffered what we have at least presented to the trial court below evidence of permanent neurological injuries,” Ziotas said.

In 2017, Lore received additional charges for failure to pay restitution to the families and she was arrested again last year for violating probation.

Correction: A prior version of this story stated that concerns about Lore’s background were raised in spring 2018. The correct date was spring 2008.