SCOTUS Hearing On Student With Autism Case Could Impact Changes In Special Needs Education - Here's Why!

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald January 11, 04:00 am

The U.S. Supreme Court will begin its hearing about a special needs case on Wednesday, Jan 11. The oral arguments involving Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District would be important because it could potentially affect the level of education benefits accorded to students with special needs.

But who is Endrew and what exactly led him or his family to file a case against the Douglas County School District in Colorado? Why will the Supreme Court's decision on this matter?

Endrew, a student with autism, attended public school in the Douglas County from preschool to fourth grade. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was established in 1975, Endrew was entitled to "free appropriate public education," according to Parent Center Hub. The boy's parents and his school agreed to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) based on this law.

By second grade, however, Endrew's academic performance suffered. His behavioral issues became a challenge for teachers but his parents said that the school made little changes to his IEP so it became ineffective.

Endrew's parents then switched to a private school specializing in students with autism and he improved. They sought reimbursement from the school district for the tuition fees, citing that the IEP failed to provide their child with "free appropriate public education."

According to Norwich Bulletin, Endrew's family needed to prove that the IEP was a failure. The school district's argument was that they did give the boy "meaningful" educational benefits. "It's is not the District's burden to pay for his placement there when Drew was making some progress under its tutelage," the lower court judge said.

The family lost their case in 2012 as well as succeeding appeals, which is why this has been elevated to the Supreme Court. Endrew's lawyers argue that "meaningful" educational benefits haven't been clearly defined under the IDEA.

It is the hope of advocates of students with special needs that the Supreme Court hearing will change the ambiguity to finally define "meaningful" educational benefits. If so, the highest court could compel all U.S. public schools to come up with substantial educational benefits for students with special needs

But school districts are concerned about such a ruling's implication for public schools already grappling with funding problems. "Schools will have to demonstrate through paperwork and documentation that they're doing more than enough for students with disabilities," School Superintendents Association's Sasha Pidelski said, according to Disability Scoop. "That will be expensive and a new administrative burden."

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