Endrew v. Douglas County School District.
In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court decided Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must be “appropriately ambitious” in light of the child’s circumstances. The court had previously ruled that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires IEPs—considered the hallmark of special education in America—to be reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits. However, the court left the question of what is considered an adequate educational benefit to be answered. Subsequently, many lower circuits ruled IEPs must offer benefits which are merely more than de minimis, an extremely low standard which left children with disabilities no legal recourse if they were barely progressing in school. This recent decision expressly rejected that low standard.
Why it matters to state advocates.
- Many advocacy groups are pleased with the decision, including the Foundation for Excellence in Education, calling it a win for children with disabilities.
- Lawyers for the school district argued a higher standard could lead to an influx of lawsuits where federal judges must decide complex education issues.
- The higher bar could be “costly for school districts” because districts will need to spend time to reevaluate IEPs and may be forced to pay for the children to attend a private school.
- The federal government has never fully funded IDEA, so this decision may compound the situation.