By: Attorney Rachel Violette
The case involved the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (known
as IDEA), a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational
needs of eligible students with disabilities. If a child has an Individualized
Education Plan, then that child gets services under IDEA.
In the Endrew F. case, the parents and the school disagreed over what constitutes
a Free and Appropriate Public Education (known as FAPE), which is what
children are entitled to under IDEA and was established by another Supreme
Court ruling in 1982.
The family in the Endrew F. case appealed to the Supreme Court because
the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Individualized Education
Plan offered was similar to those offered in the past which “did
not reveal immense educational growth”, but “were sufficient
to show a pattern of, at the least, minimal progress,” according to the 10th Circuit Court.
In its decision, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a student offered
an educational program providing “merely more than de minimis”
progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an
education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction
that aims so low would be tantamount to “sitting idly . . . awaiting
the time when they were old enough to ‘drop out.’” The
Supreme Court said the FAPE standard requires a school to
offer an Individualized Education Plan “reasonably calculated
to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light
of the child’s circumstances.”
This decision expands on the FAPE standard enough to affect everyone nationwide,
including Maine students, families and schools. It sends a strong message
to courts and school districts around the country that low expectations
for students with disabilities is not acceptable.
This opinion also clarifies how courts should apply the FAPE standard and
explains how courts have not been correctly interpreting the 1982 decision.
The Supreme Court said a student’s “educational program must
be appropriately ambitious in light of [their] circumstances, just as
advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children
in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should
have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”