On September 29th, the U.S. Supreme Court granted review in a case about the level of education benefit a school district must provide to students with disabilities in order to provide student with a free appropriate public education. The case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 raises an important question that has divided federal appeals courts: What level of educational benefit must a child receive under his or her individualized education program (IEP) to satisfy the demands of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?
The U.S. Court of
Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, ruled last year in the case of
a Colorado child with autism that because the child's public school IEP
had provided him with "some educational benefit," the Douglas County
district had provided a "free, appropriate public education" under the
IDEA. However, the 10th Circuit court panel acknowledged that several
other federal courts of appeals have adopted a higher standard that
requires an IEP to result in a "meaningful educational benefit," a point
that was echoed in the appeal filed by the parents of Endrew F. and the
Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School. The petition
argued that "[t]his court should use this case—which cleanly presents
the legal issue on a well-developed set of facts—to resolve the conflict
over this important question."
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court invited the U.S. solicitor general to file a brief expressing the views of the Obama administration. On Aug. 18, Acting Solicitor General Ian H. Gershengorn filed a brief that
urged the justices to take up the appeal, stating that the Supreme
Court “should grant certiorari and overturn the 10th Circuit's erroneous
holding that states must provide children with disabilities educational
benefits that are 'merely ... more than de minimis' in order to comply
with the IDEA …the 10th Circuit's approach is not consistent with the
text, structure, or purpose of the IDEA.” Thus, the Supreme Court has
granted review – one of eight cases the justices added to their docket
just before the formal start of their new term on October 3rd. The Endrew F. case is likely to be argued sometime early next year.