Supreme Court Considers Whether To Address FAPE
The U.S. Supreme Court is asking the Obama administration to weigh in on a case questioning how much educational benefit schools must provide in order to satisfy the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The high court has requested that the U.S. solicitor general offer an opinion on a case known as Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. In a relatively common move, the court is looking to learn the federal government’s viewpoint before determining whether or not to take up the matter.
The case was brought by the parents of a Colorado child with autism who removed their son from the Douglas County School District believing his progress there was insufficient.
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The parents enrolled their child, known in court papers as Drew, at a private school and then sought reimbursement from the public school district arguing that the boy had not been provided a free appropriate public education, or FAPE, as required by IDEA.
However, both a hearing officer and the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado determined that the school district had provided FAPE because the boy received “some” educational benefit.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit concurred and now the family is asking the Supreme Court to weigh in.
“Some courts, including the Tenth Circuit below, hold that an IEP satisfies the (IDEA) if it provides a child with a just-above-trivial educational benefit, while others hold that the act requires a heightened educational benefit,” reads the family’s petition to the high court. “Resolving the conflict among the circuits will ensure that millions of children with disabilities receive a consistent level of education, while providing parents and educators much-needed guidance regarding their rights and obligations.”
There is no firm timetable for the solicitor general to respond to the Supreme Court and the court is likely to wait for a reply before deciding on any potential further action in the case.
Meanwhile, however, the high court is also assessing whether or not to address another special education case involving a Michigan girl with cerebral palsy who sought to bring her service dog to school.
The solicitor general recently weighed in on that matter — which hinges on whether families must exhaust their options under IDEA when they have a dispute with schools before seeking remedies under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act — urging the Supreme Court to address the matter and side with the girl and her family.