Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Supreme Court unanimous decision on IDEA

Fire Power
Below is a news item from ACCSES, a national disability provider organization. On 3/22/17, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 10th Circuit Court decision on IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. They ruled in favor of parents who sent their child to a private school after the school district failed to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), to their child. 

Neil Gorsuch, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Trump, was part of the lower court decision against the parents. 

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times from 3/22/2017

"Asked about the issue on Wednesday, Gorsuch said he was a part of a unanimous three-judge panel that had sought to follow a Supreme Court standard set in 1982.

"Several liberal groups described the court's decision as a direct rebuke of Gorsuch.

"However, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) noted that Gorsuch was not part of the three-judge panel whose ruling was directly reversed in the court’s decision in Endrew F. vs. Douglas County"


An ACCSES News Alert, 3/22/17, from Kate McSweeny, Vice President of Governmental Affairs & General Counsel:

Today, the United States Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, deciding that children with disabilities are entitled to an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that will provide challenging objectives appropriate for the individual. 

Many of you who came to ACCSES’s Summit in Savannah or attended ACCSES’s Education Policy Committee call earlier this month will recall that the underlying case was brought by the parents of a boy with autism, whose IEP had been virtually unchanged during the time he had spent in the school system from pre-school to the fourth grade. The parents moved Endrew to a private school that focuses on students with autism, where their son did much better. They also sued the local public school system for its failure to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to their child as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Endrew and his parents lost before an administrative law judge, a federal district court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit determined that a child’s IEP is adequate so long as it is calculated to confer “an educational benefit” that is “merely more than de minimis.” By applying this standard, the Tenth Circuit determined that Endrew’s IEP had been “reasonably calculated to enable him to make some progress”; therefore, he had not been denied a FAPE. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and heard oral arguments in the case in January.

In the decision handed down today, the Supreme Court disagreed, and vacated the Tenth Circuit decision. Rather than the low de minimis standard, the Supreme Court stated:

“To meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” While the Court declined to establish a specific standard, it expressly stated that “a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly . . . awaiting the time when were old enough to drop out.’ The IDEA demands more.” (Citations omitted.)

You can read the decision at this link. It’s a good read.

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