Supreme Court ruling brings clarity to Nevada special education plans

"At the Supreme Court, the school district urged the Court to affirm the lower courts" rulings in its favor and argued that the IDEA requires only that IEPs provide "some benefit, as opposed to none".

"It can not be right that the IDEA generally contemplates grade-level advancement for children with disabilities who are fully integrated in the regular classroom", argued Chief Justice John Roberts in the opinion, "but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for children who are not".

The court case involved an autistic teen from Colorado who wasn't doing well in his public school, despite being given specialized instruction.

"A standard more meaningful than just above trivial is the norm today", wrote the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

Notably, the Court in Endrew F. did not overturn its Rowley decision; it merely explained that the standard announced in Rowley was based on the facts of a student who was educated in a regular education setting and was progressing smoothly in the general education curriculum. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a nonprofit group that supports children with disabilities, said that the verdict is "transformative in the lives of the students and families for whom the law is meant to benefit". Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of IL said the high court had just tossed out a standard that Gorsuch himself had used in a similar case that lowered the bar for educational achievement. School officials had cautioned that imposing higher standards could be too costly for some cash-strapped districts.

On Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin of IL asked Gorsuch about a letter from one of his former students, alleging that Gorsuch once suggested that many professional women manipulate their companies for maternity leave benefits.

Gorsuch repeatedly refused to answer questions about cases and controversies that might come before the court during his three days before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"We were bound by certain precedent", he said.

He added that his circuit was unanimously taking the same position in all such cases.

In response to a series of follow-up questions from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Gorsuch rejected her suggestion that he was "anywhere out of the mainstream" in applying the standard rejected by the Supreme Court. He noted that several other appellate courts had relied on the same standard. Gorsuch counters there are many cases when he has ruled for the little guy, when the law has been on the judge's side. When the school board gave the family an IEP for fifth grade that Endrew's parents regarded as simply more of the same, they pulled Endrew from his public school, placed him in a private school, and sought reimbursement for the private school tuition from the school district. Basically, since Luke was making some progress in his public school, the district hadn't broken IDEA, Gorsuch wrote - even though the boy made much more progress in the private option.

The court has sided with the parents of an autistic DCSD student who say their child wasn't provided the level of public education required by federal law. The Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday sends the case back to the appeals court to decide in light of the new standard.

The brief continued: "Decades of research and experience establish that the education of children with disabilities is enhanced by placing high expectations on these children - tailored to their individual abilities and potential - in order to prepare them to be college- and career- ready and to lead productive and independent adult lives". FAPE standard, the Court also expressly rejected the parents' proposed standard: that "FAPE is an education that aims to provide a child with a disability opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities".

  • Larry Hoffman