• January 21st, 2017
  • Posted by NJCSEFR

Supreme Court Defining Rights for Students with Disabilities

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On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court hear arguments on whether public schools owe children with disabilities “some” educational benefit — which courts have determined to mean just-above-trivial progress — or whether students legally deserve something more: a substantial, “meaningful” benefit.

The plaintiff in the case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, is a student with autism whose parents pulled him out of public school after his behavior deteriorated dramatically and he made what they said was almost no academic progress. After they placed him in a private school, he made rapid progress, and they sought reimbursement for tuition. They are entitled to that reimbursement if they can prove that the public school failed to provide a “free appropriate public education” under federal law.

The child and his parents lost their case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which is among the majority of Circuit Courts of Appeals that subscribe to the “some” benefit standard. A minority of circuit courts have set higher expectations for schools, and the Supreme Court now has a chance to set a uniform standard for the nation. This case could have a far reaching and lasting impact, and could affect special education costs and funding.

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