Supreme Court ruling boosts protections for students with disabilities

He did not elaborate on what that progress should look like, saying it depends on the "unique circumstances" of each child.

The justices' 8-0 decision points to the bipartisan nature of this sentiment, as does Sen.

To pass muster under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), an IEP, according to the Court, must be "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances".

"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".

"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, but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for children who are not", Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a unanimous opinion, using the acronym for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees free public education for students with disabilities.

Democrats pounced on the news that the Supreme Court Wednesday reversed an interpretation of a federal anti-discrimination statute that Gorsuch played a role in crafting.

In the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said that it is not enough for school districts to offer minimal instruction for special needs children. They must design programs to let the students make progress, and be prepared to explain their decisions when challenged.

While the Court rejected the standard applied by the Tenth Circuit (and pursued by the school district), the Court also rejected the standard proposed by the parents.

But Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin said he was concerned that Gorsuch had gone further than that precedent. And thus, it did not establish 10th Circuit precedent in her view.

He added that his circuit was unanimously taking the same position in all such cases. Now that the Supreme Court has said that is the wrong standard, he said, "Fine, I will follow the law".

Gorsuch has one more day of questioning. He noted that several other appellate courts had relied on the same standard.

Roberts said the current rules are fine for disabled children who are integrated in regular classrooms, but not for those who are not. The three circuit judges wrote that they were holding up precedent and pointed to the appeals court's 2008 decision on Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P. - which was written by Gorsuch.

Justices ruled for the parents of Endrew F., a Colorado boy with autism who pulled their son from the public school after his progress "essentially stalled".

In 2012, they asked the school district to cover tuition costs. But after the Supreme Court rejected the "merely more than de minimis" standard in Endrew F. "On this case as on others, Judge Gorsuch's response says nothing about those considerations". Gorsuch counters there are many cases when he has ruled for the little guy, when the law has been on the judge's side.

Colorado lawyer Jack Robinson represented both Endrew and the Perkins family in the 2008 case.

"At question before the court was what constituted an "appropriate" education for students receiving special education", Wehmeyer said.

  • Larry Hoffman