Supreme Court Rules in Favor of a Colorado Special Ed Student

The court on Wednesday said that it's not enough for school districts to get by with minimal instruction for special needs children.

No longer will a district be able to point to one or two procedural "checklist" items where progress is being shown by a student but now will have to assess the overall "substantive" progress a student is making in all aspects of his or her education, he said. In a March report on Gorsuch's track record on these cases, the National Education Association criticized his decision and warned that if Gorsuch took a seat on the Supreme Court, "hard-won protections for students with disabilities could be in peril". The court ruled that to meet IDEA standards, a school must offer an "individualized education program" that is tailored to each child's needs, finding that students with disabilities must have the chance to make meaningful, "appropriately ambitious" progress.

Under Gorsuch's standard, for instance, schools aren't required to make sure disabled students become self-sufficient outside the classroom. When the public schools did not customize a more suitable plan, the parents moved their son to a private school where his performance improved greatly.

The case helps clarify the scope of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law that requires a "free and appropriate public education" for disabled students.

"The Supreme Court is our boss and we respect their last word", Gorsuch said.

The decision stops short of defining what progress should look like. At the time Judge Gorsuch served in the Justice Department, the Bush administration was advancing extremely broad claims of executive power in the service of unlawful policies relating to surveillance, detention, military commissions, and interrogation. "But whatever else can be said about it", Roberts observed, "this standard is markedly more demanding than the "merely more than de minimis" test applied by the Tenth Circuit".

"All I can tell you is my job is to apply the law you write", Gorsuch said. Gorsuch has ruled on a range of special education cases throughout his career, attracting scrutiny from NY lawyer Gary S. Mayerson, who wrote in a letter to Sen.

The ruling does not go as far as the parents wanted.

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

The ruling, one of the most important of this term, came as President Trump's Supreme Court nominee is wrapping up his third day of testimony before a Senate committee.

School officials have cautioned that imposing higher standards could be too costly for some financially struggling districts.

The case decided Wednesday involves Endrew F., a Colorado boy who was diagnosed with autism at age 2. The services supplied to special ed kids by IDEA is a hot-button issue affecting a large and powerful constituency that crosses every partisan and ideological line.

Douglas County schools said it never used a minimum standard. The federal appeals court in Denver upheld that decision, ruling that the school district satisfied its duty to offer more than a "de minimis" effort.

Family Research Council's Government Affairs General Counsel, Mandi Ancalle, said in a statement shared with CP on Wednesday that Gorsuch's belief in something being "settled law" doesn't guarantee "a same outcome on a similar case". Of course, Plessy was "settled law" until Brown made it up to the Supreme Court and challenged the decision, and the entire country can be thankful for Brown's pursuits.

  • Larry Hoffman