On March 22nd the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Special Education students in Endrew F. V. Douglas County School District. School districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, "appropriately ambitious" progress. The case focuses on a student from Colorado with autism and attention deficit disorder (ADD) whose parents removed him from public school in fifth grade. He was placed in a private school where he made substantial progress. His parents argued that the individualized education plan (IEP) offered by the public school was inadequate and that as a result the district did not meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) thereby, denying the student of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). The parents were suing the school district to have the district pay for the student’s private school tuition. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents/student.
In delivering the opinion on behalf of the unanimous Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in relevant part, “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.” The importance of this case means that schools and their districts need to be held to a higher standard than currently exists. In addition, Roberts stated in the opinion, “a child’s education program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom… the goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging in objectives.”
In light of this decision, parents, guardians and advocates need to evaluate the adequacy of a student’s IEP based on the “unique circumstances of the child for whom it was created.” More should be expected of schools and their districts. Every child, whether they have a disability or not, should be provided a meaningful education so that they may reach their full potential and live lives as independent as possible based on their unique abilities.
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