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SCOTUS to decide important special education case

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in a fascinating and extremely important education law case that will have profound implications for school districts and students across the country, particularly the roughly 6.7 million children with disabilities.

The case in question is Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, and the issue before the nation's high court is what legal standard must be applied in determining what manner of education is owed to the plaintiff and the millions of other students with disabilities by their respective school districts.

To truly understand the case, it's necessary to first provide a brief examination of the landmark federal law at epicenter of the legal arguments: the Individuals with Disabilities Act, otherwise known as IDEA.

Passed back in 1975, IDEA dictates that federal funding for schools is contingent on the states providing a "free appropriate public education" -- or FAPE -- to all children with disabilities.

As part of this requirement, and as we've touched on in our blog, school districts must work with the parents of disabled students to devise what are known as individualized education programs -- or IEPs -- at the start of each academic year.

These IEPs set forth both the goals for the student in their special education curriculum and the plan for helping them reach these objectives. The longstanding standard established by SCOTUS to assess the adequacy of an IEP is that it must be "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits."

In the event a parent is dissatisfied with their child's progress in the special education program, they may take them out of the public school system, enroll them in a private school and even proceed with a lawsuit against the school district for reimbursement of the cost. In order to prevail, however, the parents must be able to demonstrate that the school district failed in its efforts to provide an "appropriate" education.

It's the legal standard that must be used in making this determination that is at the heart of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which we'll examine further in our next post.

If you are a parent who has encountered serious problems with a Florida school district over the educational requirements of your special needs child, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options.

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