Special Education Law

Case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District

The U.S. supreme Court ruled in favor of higher standards of children with disabilities due to the recent case of  Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Advocates and parents say the case dramatically expands the rights of special-education students in the United States.  It creates a nationwide standard for special education, and empowers parents as they advocate for their children in schools. But critics say the decision will not have any impact on schools, arguing that the vast majority already provide a good education for those kids.

Background: Endrew parents’ removed him from their local school where he had made little progress and placed him in a  private school where according to parents he had made significant academic and social improvements.  Endrew parents filed a complain in 2012 with the Colorado Department of Education to have the school reimburse them for the cost of their son to attend the private school for the amount of $70,000 a year.  The lower courts ruled on behalf of the school district on the grounds that the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to ensure handicapped kids have access to public education—not to guarantee any particular level of education once inside. But the parents appealed, with the case eventually landing at the Supreme Court where is was passed in a 8-0 decision for the parents of Andrew

The case revolved around one question: Must schools provide a meaningful education in which children show significant progress and are given substantially equal opportunities as  typical children, or can they provide an education that results in just some improvement?

As I thought about this very question, I could not help but think about my own daughter’s education.  Being a parent of a student with special needs you are always looking for the best place for your child to go to get the service they need.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated that a child’s educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances and that every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. I could not have agreed with him more.  I think it really empowers parents to feel confident when they go in the doors of an IEP meeting. Parents can now say that the law says that this program must be tailored so my child makes progress. As a parent and a special education teacher I feel it is important that we are looking at this case and making sure that we are doing all we can to make sure that another family does not have to go through this.  How this decision will play out on the school level, given the rising costs of special education and diminishing support from the federal government, is anyone’s guess but it is a start.

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