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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision Strengthening Standards for Students with Disabilities

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided in favor of a student with a disability in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Last week’s decision sets a more rigorous standard for special education services, stating that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) demands educational programs to be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingIDEA requires that disabled students be provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Reinforced by the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court Rowley decision, the requirement for students with disabilities has been that schools provide for educational benefit “merely more than de minimis,” or just above insignificant. This low threshold for FAPE has resulted in weak standards for students with disabilities for decades, including Individualized Education Program (IEP) accommodation denials.

This decision sets a standard that is “more demanding than ‘merely more than de minimis,'” stating that while each student’s goals may differ, “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” Maureen Hollowell, NCIL’s Education Subcommittee Chair, said, “for years students with disabilities have been held back from making academic progress because of a very low standard established by schools and the courts. Today the U.S. Supreme Court gave a new generation of children opportunities, IF we empower students and families to use this new standard.”