Supreme Court Hands Major Victory to Students With Disabilities

23 Mar 2017

Supreme Court

Early Tuesday, the US Supreme Court delivered a major victory for students with disabilities. In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the court determined that under Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), publicly-funded schools must provide a higher standard than “merely more than de minimus”–the standard set in a 10th Circuit of Appeals ruling–for student with special educational needs.

Writing the opinion for the court in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “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. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly . . . awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out. ’ ” Roberts also stated that “The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

We have been following this case for some time and, while we knew that the law, if properly interpreted, would be on the side of special needs students and their families, our hopes were tempered. This decision makes it clear that all students have a right to an education that will assist them in their educational progression, even individualizing techniques and curricula if necessary. The Supreme Court has now set the bar on educational standards for students with disabilities but, now comes the hard part–enforcing those standards in each and every school district across America.

We thank the Supreme Court. Now, we must continue to stay engaged to make certain that high-quality education is a reality for all students.


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