As we previously blogged, the United States Supreme Court was asked, in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, to answer the following question: What level of educational benefit must school districts confer on children with disabilities in order to provide them with the free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (“IDEA”)?
On March 22, 2017, the United States Supreme Court unanimously responded to this question, in a landmark special education decision, with the following answer: “In order to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA [to provide FAPE], a school must offer an IEP [that is] reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 580 U.S. ____ (2017).
So what level of educational benefit does the new standard actually require? As the United States Supreme Court freely admits, the standard does not establish a “bright-line rule” for the education of students with disabilities. However, the United States Supreme Court does provide some general guidance depending on whether the student is fully integrated into the regular classroom.
For a student who is fully integrated into the regular classroom, the United States Supreme Court held: “When a child is fully integrated in the regular classroom, as the [IDEA] prefers, [the IEP must provide] a level of instruction reasonably calculated to permit advancement through the general curriculum.”
For a student who is not fully integrated into the regular classroom, the United States Supreme Court held that the “IEP need not aim for grade level advancement. But [the child’s] educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his [or her] 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.”
As this is a landmark special education decision, our readers are encouraged to read and analyze the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision by clicking here. Our readers are also encouraged to listen the below audio of the January 11, 2017 oral arguments to hear the questions that were of interest to the United States Supreme Court prior to reaching its unanimous decision.
There are certainly going to be many questions as to how to this new FAPE standard will apply on a case-by-case basis. Matthew John Markling focuses much of his practice in the area of special education law and is always available – along with our McGown & Markling team – to provide you and your school district with specific guidance on this new FAPE standard and other special education issues as every situation is fact specific.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and Patrick Vrobel
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.