Supreme Court Case To Keep An Eye On

November 22, 2016


A significant court case will be heard by the top court in this land.  The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear arguments in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.  The case could have key implications for children with disabilities across the U.S. in regards to provision of services and instruction.  Whether a school must provide an education to children with disabilities that is equal to students without diabilities and not just an education slightly above "trivial", is at question here.


For years parents or children with disabilities have desired to have schools provide more than just "some educational benefit", which is what the current statute provides for in its language.  Parents' want to have their children reach the potential that they know to be within their child's grasp.  However, there is often a disconnect between what the parents see as the needed education for their child and what the school is "required" to provide.  


As a parent of a child with a disability, I have seen this exact issue addressed in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.  A Special Education (SpEd) Coordinator said to me, "We don't have to give your child a Cadillac, just a Chevy.  We don't have to teach to potential."  You can imagine my shock and disbelief that any educator would make a statement such as that, let alone adopt that philosophy in the educational setting particularly in special education.  Even if the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 states "some educational benefit" as the standard by which Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is measured, one would hope that educators would strive to do the most they could and not the least.  A means by which to measure should be more in line with a child's individaul "potential" or the same benefit as their peers.


The new Every Student Succeeds Act, recently signed into law by President Obama, requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.  This statement includes children with disabilities.  Teaching that is meant to bring each student with a disability in line with high academic standards, would be more than "some educational benefit".  Parents, educators, administrators and States should work in the true spirit of a "Team” put forth in IDEA to teach children with disabilities to their individual potential, or to the equal benefit their peers enjoy inline with a high academic standard. In doing so, EVERY child has the opportunity to reach their potential, be prepared for the post-secondary education, or seek a life they choose with the education and skills to allow them to be successful, productive, self-sufficient and prepared.


While some children in the educational setting may face far tougher challenges in regards to post-secondary school life, there is still no reason to forego teaching each child to their individual potential.  Every ounce of knowledge and every skill acquired towards a student's potential, provides an ideal access to FAPE and gives parents the comfort of knowing their child has a better chance in this world once outside their care.  


Let me revisit a moment the comment made to me in the IEP meeting.  After my initial shock and dismay wore off, just a moment later, I politely replied to the SpEd Coordinator that what they were doing regarding services and instruction for my child, was providing a Yugo and not even a Chevy.  I believe this speaks directly to the issue at hand in the case before the Supreme Court of this great Nation.  While a Chevy may be the median range of automobile one might be able to acquire, a Cadillac is a much higher range one might desire to ascertain.  However, its much more unlikely that a person will set their sights on a Yugo (or any lower range vehicle) if they could have access to the Cadillac.  As a Nation, do we want our children to be given the Yugo in a world where they need the skills that are more in line with a Cadillac?  I think not.  I hope that the top court of these United States will consider deeply and seriously the issue before them.  I will have faith that the Justices will find that students with disabilities deserve the same educational benefit as their peers and not merely "some educational benefit." 

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