Special Education

If you have a child with a disability, your child is entitled to FAPE – a free appropriate public education, under the IDEA at 20 U. S. C. § 1401(9). 

In a nutshell, FAPE is an individualized educational program designed to meet the child’s unique needs, from which the child receives educational benefit, and which prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living.

Courts have held that all children are entitled to free public education that meets  his or her unique needs. What “works” for most kids, won’t work for every child. In order to provide FAPE, the law requires schools to provide services that are individualized to meet the unique needs of each child.

The school is responsible for providing your child with a free appropriate education (FAPE). Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the roadmap that describes how the school will provide your child with a FAPE.

Courts have held that to receive FAPE, your child must receive meaningful educational benefit. Learn how test scores provided objective evidence that student Frank Evans did not make adequate progress in the public school program – that he did not receive educational benefit.  In Evans v. Rhinebeck, the child’s parent asked the court to order reimbursement for her son’s education at the Kildonan School. (Kildonan specializes in educating children with severe language learning disabilities like dyslexia.)

The Judge concluded that the public school program was NOT appropriate because the nature of Frank’s dyslexia in conjunction with his emotional problems, was such that he needed an intensive program of individualized, integrated, multi-sensory, sequential training with students of similar needs. The IEP proposed for Frank was not such a program, and therefore did not meet his needs. See Evans v. Rhinebeck, 930 F.Supp. 83 (S.D. NY, 1996).

The first special education case decided in 1982 by the U.S. Supreme Court  was Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Amy Rowley, 458 U.S. 176. In Rowley, the high court defined a “free appropriate public education” as “access to an education” or a “basic floor of educational opportunity.”

When you read caselaw, you will begin to understand why there are conflicting opinions and advice about a legal issue. Legal decisions are often hard to understand when you first read them. If you read a case but don’t understand what it means, persevere ! You and your child will benefit from your hard work. 

Two New U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Fry v. Napoleon Comm. Sch. District

Fry v. Napoleon Comm. Sch. District began as a case about a school’s refusal to allow a child’s service dog to accompany her in school. After the parents sued for damages under Section 504 and the ADAA, a federal appeals court held that the parents’ claim was barred because they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA. 

On June 28, 2016, the U. S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Fry v. Napoleon Comm. Sch. District. On February 22, 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the parents of 12-year old Ehlena Fry, identified only in court records as E.F., can sue school officials for refusing to let their child bring a service dog to school.The case centered on who was denied the right to bring her goldendoodle, named Wonder, to her school in Michigan. Fry has cerebral palsy and needs the service dog to help her with daily activities, including retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights and taking her coat off.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1

In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, the parents argued that their child with autism did not make measurable progress on his IEP goals and that the school failed to address his worsening behavior problems. The parents advocated for a heightened ‘meaningful educational benefit’ standard. On December 22, 2015, after an adverse decision from a federal appeals court, the parents requested that the Supreme Court resolve their educational benefit question. On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

On January 11, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The Endrew case may be one of the most important special education cases in decades, as it invited the Court to decide the level of educational benefit schools are required to provide to children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court in Endrew v. Douglas County unanimously rejected the “de minimis” standard (read the Decision) for one that “is markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the 10th Circuit.” In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts says “a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” – Read the decision at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-827_0pm1.pdf.  

Contact the attorneys at Cox Law Group today to discuss an Education or Special Education issue you, your family or your child is struggling with today.