U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS accepts case of autistic child to rule on education benefits for kids with disabilities

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of an autistic child who is attending private school because his parents were dissatisfied with the educational help provided by his public school in Colorado.

The parents of Endrew F. are seeking reimbursement of the private-school tuition on the ground that the public school failed to provide an appropriate education as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The school failed to deal with Endrew’s behavior issues that included head banging, falling to the floor and taking off his clothes, the parents contended.

At issue in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is the standard that schools must meet in complying with the law. SCOTUSblog, Education Week, the Denver Post and Bloomberg News have stories.

Endrew’s family told the Denver Post they were “shell-shocked and giddy” about the cert grant. “If we can change any families’ lives, that’s our goal,” said Endrew’s father.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the public school was required to develop a plan that was reasonably calculated to provide “some” educational benefit that is nontrivial. Endrew’s case was close, but the standard was met, the 10th Circuit said.

Some appeals courts cite a higher standard, requiring schools to provide a “meaningful educational benefit,” according to the cert petition (PDF).

Asked for its views, the federal government said the Supreme Court should overturn the 10th Circuit’s “erroneous holding” that nontrivial progress is sufficient. “No parent or educator in America would say that a child has received an ‘appropriate’ or a ‘specially suitable’ or ‘proper’ education ‘in the circumstances’ when all the child has received are benefits that are barely more than trivial,” the government brief said.

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