Analysis by Attorney Lawrence Berliner
In a unanimous decision issued by the Supreme Court, the Court rejected outright a low or de minims standard of educational progress for children in special education advocated by the school district in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that children with disabilities are entitled to receive substantially more than a de minimis standard of education in order to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Specifically the Court held that children with disabilities are entitled to an IEP that is “appropriately ambitious” and that children “should have a chance to meet challenging objectives” as they are advancing from grade to grade. The provision of FAPE is not satisfied with a de minimis standard of education and such a low standard “can hardly be said to have offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to ‘drop out’.”
The decision in Endrew F. is an important victory for parents of children receiving special education. It creates a substantive right to an “ambitious” IEP with educational outcomes that will properly prepare students with disabilities for each next step in their lives, including furthering their education, competitive employment, and if necessary independent living, once the student graduates from high school or exits special education at the end of the school year when they turn twenty-one (21). By rejecting a low standard of special education for children with disabilities, the Supreme Court ruled that children with disabilities are entitled to receive comparable educational services as children without disabilities. If parents expect school districts to provide a quality education to children without disabilities, then why was it acceptable for school districts to provide lower educational services for children with disabilities? This decision goes a long way to ensure that children with disabilities will have comparable educational outcomes as children without disabilities and ensure that children with disabilities will have the tools that are necessary in order to become productive members of society as young adults. High expectations by parents and educators should equal high educational outcomes for children with disabilities.
Click here to read the decision: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-827_0pm1.pdf