On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that school districts must provide students with disabilities the opportunity to make “appropriately ambitious” progress in their education, and that decision will likely have an impact on the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States.
According to NPR, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District centers on a child with autism and attention deficit disorder whose parents removed him from public school because the individualized education plan the school provided was inadequate. The boy went on to make better progress at a private school, and his parents sued to compel the school district to pay his private school tuition.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling sided with the parents and overturned a lower court ruling in the school district’s favor.
The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act guarantees a “free appropriate public education” to all students with disabilities. Today’s opinion held that “appropriate” goes further than what the lower courts had held.
“It cannot 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,” read the opinion, signed by Chief Justice John Roberts.
NPR reports that the case drew a dozen amicus (friend of the court) briefs from advocates for students with disabilities who argued that rigor, expectations and accommodations should be increased for all students.
In eight out of 10 cases that Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is currently going through the confirmation process to fill the ninth seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, has handled involving students with disabilities, he has ruled in favor of the districts and not the students, and according to NPR, he was asked about that on Wednesday by Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
“I was wrong, Senator, because I was bound by circuit precedent, and I’m sorry,” Gorsuch said.
I’ll bet you are sorry. I’ll bet you are.
The positive note in this is that now students with special needs will be more likely to get a quality education in their districts, and that is huge. These students should not be limited by their abilities, and they deserve every opportunity to advance, grow and shine.
Bravo, SCOTUS. Bravo.