The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments arguments [transcript, PDF] in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District [SCOTUSblog materials] on Wednesday over education benefits for disabled students. The justices will consider what level of educational benefit school districts must confer on children with disabilities in order to provide them with free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [text, PDF]. Petitioner argued that schools that provide minimal and insignificant benefits do not meet the IDEA requirements. Rather, schools must supply sufficient instruction and related services to a child that provide substantially equal educational opportunities. Petitioner is seeking a standard where each disabled child’s circumstances are examined along with how their disability impacts their education and then they received sufficient benefits from the school to make up that deficit. Respondents argue that such a standard is ambiguous and does not conform with the Spending Clause. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s precedent in Hendrick Hudson Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Rowley [opinion, PDF] examined the substantial standard petitioner asked for and did not adopt it. Finally, respondent argues that through the recent amendments to the Act and their choice not to update the statute’s substantive standard language, Congress has made it’s intent clear that it does not adopt such a standard.
A complaint was filed [SCOTUSblog report] after parents of an autistic student felt their child did not receive significant benefits that were tailored to their child and his changing needs as he progressed and got older. A hearing officer found in favor of the school. The parents then filed a lawsuit in federal court, which also found in favor of the school. On appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] upheld the ruling [opinion, PDF], stating that the school merely needed to provide the child with a benefit that was “more than de minimis.”