Tomorrow the Supreme Court, in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas Co. School District, will hear oral arguments on whether the school district is obligated to provide “merely more than de minimis” or “meaningful” benefit to special education students. The US Courts of Appeal have been applying these two different standards. The Supreme Court decision in Endrew will clarify across the United States the standard of educational benefit required by school districts.
Currently California recognizes Board of Education v. Rowley (1982) 458 U.S. 176, a Supreme Court case which held that IDEA provides the basic floor of opportunity and is designed to provide educational benefit to students with special needs. Special education students are not ensured the ability to “maximize their potential commensurate with the opportunity provided” to typically developing peers. California, based on Ninth Circuit cases, uses the phrases “educational benefit,” “some educational benefit”, or “meaningful educational benefit.”
Solicitor General’s Brief
The Solicitor General, at the request of the US Supreme Court, filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to grant the petition to hear the Endrew case. The Solicitor General’s advice included a reminder that resolving the conflicts between the different US Courts of Appeal will “ensure that millions of children with disabilities receive a consistent level of education.” The Solicitor General’s brief argues in favor of a higher standard than “more than de minimis” for students with disabilities. The Solicitor General supports a requirement that “offers each eligible child an opportunity to make significant educational progress, in light of his particular needs and capabilities.”
Why is this Important
The ruling in Endrew will clarify the level of educational benefit to be provided by the school district. If the Supreme Court follows the advice of the Solicitor General this will be a great for special education students. If the Supreme Court limits educational benefit to “de minimis” that will not be a win for special education students.
Oral arguments will be heard tomorrow. It will take some time before a ruling is issued. Follow my blog to keep up to date on this issue.
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