U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholds Rights of Special Education Students to a Meaningful Education!

Dear Commons Community,

Too often, kids with disabilities are left behind. Last Wednesday, a unanimous Supreme Court took a step toward ensuring that students with disabilities can receive their right to a meaningful public education.   In Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist.,  school districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress, the Supreme Court said in its  8-0 ruling.  The decision could have far-reaching implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States.

The case centered on a child with autism and attention deficit disorder whose parents removed him from public school in fifth grade. He went on to make better progress in a private school. His parents argued that the individualized education plan provided by the public school was inadequate, and they sued to compel the school district to pay his private school tuition.

The Supreme Court today sided with the family, overturning a lower court ruling in the school district’s favor.

The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act guarantees a “free appropriate public education” to all students with disabilities. Today’s opinion held that “appropriate” goes further than what the lower courts had held.

The case drew a dozen friend of the court briefs from advocates for students with disabilities who argued that it is time to increase rigor, expectations and accommodations for all.

“A standard more meaningful than just above trivial is the norm today,” wrote the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

The ruling seems likely to increase pressure from families and advocates in that direction.

Since its passage, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has required state and local schools receiving federal funding to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Currently, over 6 million students across the country with various types of disabilities benefit from the IEDA’s protections. But parents, school districts, and the lower federal courts have contested exactly what that actually requires. 

Congratulations to the U.S. Supreme Court!


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