Legal victory for students with disabilities

Bob Joondeph, Executive Director

Today, in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision overturning a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), public schools need only provide a “merely more than de minimis” educational benefit to students with disabilities.

In an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that standard, holding that students who are offered such minimal benefit “can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.”

Instead, the Court found that schools must provide “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

Statement from Bob Joondeph, Executive Director, Disability Rights Oregon:

Today’s decision is a resounding victory for one student with autism, all students with disabilities and an America where everyone has a chance to succeed. It will help to strengthen Individualized Educational Programs, elevate expectations for students with disabilities and ensure that they receive a more rigorous education.

This ruling means that a school district can no longer say–year after year–that failure to reach an academic goal, such as a grade-level improvement in reading, is an acceptable level of progress. It gives parents and advocates the legal foundation to insist that education plans are designed to help students, not minimize the school’s resources.

A good education can broaden any child’s horizons.  Many children with disabilities have not been challenged to be their best but, instead, have been shunted aside to lives of low expectations.   The Supreme Court decision says that enough is enough.  Every child should receive an educational program that enables them to achieve.

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