New Supreme Court Ruling Affects Special Education


March, 2017

US Supreme Court

AAoM celebrates this week’s significant US Supreme Court ruling which will impact all families who struggle to secure the highest level of special educational supports and services for their child. All children deserve an opportunity to meet their highest potential and this action brings us one step closer to making that happen. Details of the case follow.

In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. The US Supreme Court was asked to decide what is an “appropriate” education for a student with autism. The young student with autism had an IEP, but made little progress on his academic goals. In part, due to severe behavior issues the parents claimed the IEP did not adequately address. In arguing for reimbursement of the expenses of the private school the parents placed their child in, the District court and the the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the parents’ claim and agreed with the school that “some progress” no matter how small (de minimus) was “acceptable” and all that the IDEA required.

In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the de minimus standard and held that IDEA requires school districts to create an individualized education program (“IEP”) that is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts forcefully stated “a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimus progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.”

This decision will strengthen the hand of parents that advocate on using test data to determine if the child is benefiting from the education being provided. The data from standard scores, as expressed in percentile scores, indicates both if the student is progressing over time compared to their earlier scores and how the student compares to other students. It also strengthens the hand of parents of severely disabled children seeking more than minimal services for their child.

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