Even Clarence Thomas told Gorsuch he was wrong.
The United States Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that de minimus ain’t good enough.
The decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District could have far-reaching implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States.
The case centered on a child with autism and attention deficit disorder whose parents removed him from public school in fifth grade. He went on to make better progress in a private school. His parents argued that the individualized education plan provided by the public school was inadequate, and they sued to compel the school district to pay his private school tuition.
The Supreme Court today sided with the family, overturning a lower court ruling in the school district’s favor.
The case was about whether public schools have a duty to do more then the bare minimum in providing services to special needs students.
Those of us who have worked with special needs students, even in the more prosperous districts, know that it is a constant battle when fighting for students with needs.
For me, each year the Park Ridge District 64 administration and board, including special education administrators, would cut support services and staff. And every year, even in the years we won, a full trimester would have been wasted waging the fight.
I received a copy of the memo from the Park Ridge District 64 law firm responding to the SCOTUS ruling.
The United States Supreme Court vacated the Tenth Circuit decision in favor of the school district and remanded the case back to the Tenth Circuit for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
To this point, the Seventh Circuit, which is controlling in Illinois, has applied “more than de minimis” benefit standard to determine whether a student’s IEP is reasonably calculated to provide a student with a free and appropriate education. Therefore, the standard upon which IEPs are evaluated in federal courts in Illinois will change as a result of the Endrew F. decision. However, we believe that the standard is a reasonable one which school districts, with competent counsel, will have no problem meeting. We note that although the Court rejected the “more than de minimis” standard urged by the school district, it also rejected a more stringent standard put forward by the parents. All in all, we view that this case is a win for all school districts, although it was a “loss” for the Douglas County School District, which on remand may still come out a winner.
In the perverse minds of the lawyers and too many school boards, when it comes to special needs students, there are winners and losers.
Park Ridge’s lawyers believe “that with competent counsel” the district can remain winners when they deny adequate services to students, in spite of the Court’s ruling today.
Less for typical students. Less for special needs students. More for the lawyers.