Education – Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of Special Education Students

In a major win for the disability community, the U.S. Supreme Court ruledthat school districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress. In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, the high court rejected the “merely more than de minimis” standard set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver. That language had been used in a precedent-setting opinion in another special education case by Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, who sits on the 10th Circuit appellate court.

“Of course this describes a general standard, not a formula,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. “When all is said and done, 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,” he wrote. “The IDEA demands more,” he added. “It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

Endrew’s parents sought reimbursement from the district for the cost of a private school, arguing that the public school had failed to meet the IDEA’s mandate for a free and appropriate public education. The Supreme Court did not directly address the question of reimbursement, but sent the case back to the lower courts for consideration. For more information, read The Arc’s statement on the Supreme Court decision here.

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