Education Law

Gorsuch could set back special-education law if confirmed to SCOTUS, report alleges

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Neil Gorsuch

Judge Neil Gorsuch.

If Neil M. Gorsuch is confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, special-education protections for schoolchildren could be in jeopardy, according to the National Education Association.

The NEA released a report Thursday, reports. Gorsuch as a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge “erected technical legal barriers” against lawsuits brought by students with disabilities, according to the report. He thinks that students’ constitutional rights are not violated when they are segregated and subjected to abusive confinement.

Additionally, the NEA report (PDF) states that Gorsuch “believes in dismantling” administrative agency powers to enforce regulation for students with disabilities. Gorsuch’s opinions cited in the report include A.F. v. Espanola Public Schools, published in 2015; Garcia v. Board of Education of Albuquerque Public Schools, a 2008 opinion; and the 2010 opinion Chavez v. New Mexico Public Education Department.

“Judge Gorsuch’s record on students with disabilities raises serious questions about whether he, as a Supreme Court justice, would understand and stand up for the rights of disabled students,” the report states. “It is critical that the Senate review this record and demand that Judge Gorsuch explain how he would respect the rights of students with disabilities on the Supreme Court—in the face of an overwhelming body of cases demonstrating his hostility towards this already vulnerable population.”

In a February review of Gorsuch’s earlier opinions, the Associated Press found that he “embraced a bare-bones standard of education for disabled children,” while often upholding other civil rights complaints against schools.

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