On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas Country School District 580 US ____ (Mar. 22, 1997). This is a good time for parents to review their child’s IEP and determine if it provides a free and appropriate education to their child in light of the Supreme Court’s findings in Endrew F. The Supreme Court opined that every child should have a chance to meet challenging objectives. The process used to establish an IEP and implementation of a child’s IEP are important to protecting this right.
Establishment of the IEP
The Supreme Court opined that an IEP must be constructed after careful consideration of the:
- Child’s present levels of achievement;
- Disability; and
- Potential for growth.
The collaboration between the school and parents on these issues is key to an appropriate IEP. The present levels of achievement and disability are often subject to discussion because they are included on the IEP form. An area that may be overlooked is the potential for growth. There isn’t an area specifically designated for this topic.
The IEP should be reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits. For students integrated in the regular classroom, this requires the IEP to be reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade. For students not fully integrated, the IEP must allow the child to pursue academic and functional advancement. In both circumstances, The IEP must take into consideration the unique circumstances of the child.
The courts give deference to the school district based on their expertise. The Supreme Court opined that, given the expertise, schools are required to air their opinions and be prepared to offer a cogent and responsive explanation of their decisions. Parents are entitled to ask seek information and documentation to understand the school’s opinions.
Implementation of the IEP
Parents and school officials should monitor progress during the implementation of the IEP. Parents are not at the school site and unable to monitor progress in person. Therefore, it is important for parents to request school work, including anything generated during specialized academic instruction.
Parents should not accept trivial progress. Parents should expect their child will make progress in light of his or her unique needs. Trivial progress is no longer acceptable.
If you believe your child’s IEP does not contain challenging objectives or your child is not making appropriate progress in light of his or her circumstances, it is important to seek the advice of legal counsel who can help you analyze your situation.
(You can view my initial impressions of the Endrew F. case here: https://specialedlegaljourney.com/2017/03/24/new-ruling-a-school-must-offer-an-iep-reasonably-calculated-to-enable-a-child-to-make-progress-appropriate-in-light-of-the-childs-circumstances/)
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