Skip to main content
Accessibility  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  Terms of Service

Children with Disability and Public Schools Supreme Court Case

  • Published: 2017-01-16 (Revised/Updated 2018-03-15) : Author: National Constitution Center
  • Synopsis: U.S. Supreme Court hears case about level of education support disabled children must receive in the public school system.

Main Document

"Once a court determines that the Act's requirements have been met, questions of methodology are for resolution by the States, said Justice William Rehnquist in the majority opinion."

Last Wednesday The Supreme Court heard a significant case about the level of education support disabled children must receive in the public school system.

Back in 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which was later renewed and changed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA).

The federal government in the case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, wants the Court to clarify what Congress has meant since it set these policies since 1975, and specifically the concept of "free appropriate public education" for disabled children at public schools.

The case is about the following question:

"What is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with the free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?"

A 15-year-old Littleton, Colo., student, identified only as Endrew F. (his parents call him "Drew"), is challenging a federal appeals court ruling. The youth is autistic and has attention deficit disorder, compromising his verbal and non-verbal communications skills.

When his parents and school officials couldn't agree on an individualized educational plan (or IEP) for him in public schools, Drew was placed in a private school that specializes in teaching autistic students. The family then sued to recover the private school tuition, contending that the school district was obliged to pay because it failed to provide Drew with an adequate educational opportunity.

A trial judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the challenge, finding that the law only required a benefit level just above trivial, and that Drew had received better than that level in public school.

The Court first addressed these questions in 1992 in the case of Board of Education v. Rowley, where it provided a partial definition of the word "appropriate" but refused to make it more specific. Since then, the Court hasn't returned to the issue until today.

In the Rowley decision, the court said that public schools didn't have to maximize the learning potential of children with disabilities, because Congress didn't indicate a requirement of "strict equality of opportunity or services" in the public school setting. But, it said, each disabled child's educational plan must be "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits."

The Court also didn't establish a test for what would be appropriate in each given child's situation. "The courts must be careful to avoid imposing their view of preferable educational methods upon the States. Once a court determines that the Act's requirements have been met, questions of methodology are for resolution by the States," said Justice William Rehnquist in the majority opinion.

Since 1992, the lower federal courts have reached widely varying interpretations of appropriate standards of achievement.

Similar Topics

1 : Parents and Siblings Can be Teachers for Special Needs Kids : Michigan State University.
2 : STEM3 Academy Opens Campuses for Students with Special Needs : The Help Group.
3 : Children with Disability and Public Schools Supreme Court Case : National Constitution Center.
4 : Stephen Gaynor School Shares Benefits of Performing Arts Education for Students With Learning Differences : Stephen Gaynor School.
5 : Language-Based Learning in Children - Unlocking Clues : University of Missouri-Columbia.
From our Special Education section - Full List (65 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

1 : Exploring Upper Limb Dysfunction After Spinal Cord Injury
2 : Yearly Business Plan Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
3 : Registration now open for Turnstone Endeavor Games - April 20-22, 2018
4 : PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics: Day Eight Highlights
5 : PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics: Day Seven Highlights


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.