A higher standard of special education could be the country’s new standard. The next chapter of Special Education Laws in the U.S. is currently being written, quite literally, by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is likely to decide a case currently before them, deciding what quality of education a public school must provide students with disabilities.
The case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is currently under review in the Supreme Court. The case stems from a young boy with autism and ADHD who was experiencing behavioral problems and academic difficulty in his Denver public school. His parents, concerned with his difficulties, registered Drew in a private school for children with autism. Drew’s behavior, academics, and social abilities improved. The parents then filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education, seeking to recover the $70,000 tuition per year that they were paying for the private school. The court that heard this case disagreed with his parents and found that the school had done their job by providing access to an education and had no duty to provide a particular level of education. This case was appealed and the decision of the Supreme Court will shape the future of Special Education Law.
The question before the Court is whether schools have a duty to provide a meaningful education where the child shows significant progress, the same as provided to typical children. Or whether they must only provide an education that results in some improvement. If the Court agrees with the parents in the current case, schools may be held to a higher standard going forward. This case may actually expand special education laws and services required by public schools.
This case will set a standard for special education students in our nation. While this sounds promising for some parents and advocates, we are still left with the question of funding. With a new administration that is trying to distance themselves from Federal regulation of special education services, and decreased funding of special education, it is difficult to determine how the situation will be handled. President Trump’s pick for education secretary (Betsy DeVos) recently indicated that she believes the decisions for special-education students and services offered should be left to the States.
Luckily, NJ State and other states already meet the requirements for IDEA and provide quality educations for special education students. But many schools that fall below this standard will be forced to improve their services if this case is decided in favor of the student and parents. Regardless of the outcome, this case will provide some clarity in an often cloudy area of law that is hard for parents to navigate.