U.S. Supreme Court: Schools must raise standards so students with special needs can progress

In long-awaited decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court affirms the educational rights of students with special needs.

The U.S. Supreme Court strengthened the case of parents children with special needs today when it ruled public schools must offer such students programs that meet higher standards and enable them to show progress.

“As someone with a disability, who also knows what it means to parent a public school student with multiple disabilities, I am thrilled with this decision,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. “School for students with disabilities today can be a disaster. Our family had to move so that our children could go to a great public school that does the right things for students with disabilities. However, most people do not have the flexibility to pick up and move to a different school district. Every child should have access to the education and skills they need to succeed. This Supreme Court decision can mean that students with disabilities can succeed, just like anyone else.”

As the AJC reported:

Chief Justice John Roberts said that it is not enough for school districts to get by with minimal instruction for special needs children. The school programs must be designed to let students make progress in light of their disabilities.

The ruling quickly led to tough questions at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the high court had just tossed out a standard that Gorsuch himself had used in a similar case that lowered the bar for educational achievement.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court sided with parents of an autistic teen in Colorado who said their public school did not do enough to help their son make progress. They sought reimbursement for the cost of sending him to private school.

 Roberts said the law requires an educational program “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” He did not elaborate on what that progress should look like, saying it depends on the “unique circumstances” of each child. He added that there should also be deference to school officials.

“When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimus progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” Roberts said. “For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to sitting idly awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out.”

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
Alanna Prisby McEachin
Alanna Prisby McEachin

To go from the bare minimum FAPE to a $60,000 a year education is a big difference. The federal and state governments need to pony up the money to support these new standards that I assume will be put into law shortly. It's altogether possible to tell us teachers to make magic (yet again) on a daily basis and give these very deserving students our own money to make up for the funding they won't give the schools. We teachers are crying for help. We have too many kids in class, not enough funding and we wonder why there is a teacher shortage.

Starik
Starik

@Our porous borders How many rapes occur in schools nationwide, and who commits them? Natives, that's who. Because kids are immigrants it's national news?

Our porous borders
Our porous borders

@Starik 

At least one of the rapists involved was an 18-year-old illegal immigrant already served with a deportation notice. 

Starik
Starik

@Our porous borders @Starik It happened, of course, but it's an unusual event. Every group of people has a percentage who are serious criminals - and the percentage of immigrant criminals is relatively low.

Our porous borders
Our porous borders

@Starik

Not true. Illegal immigrants commit violent crimes far in excess of their demographic, as shown by prison numbers. But the liberal mainstream media refuses to publicize their immigration status when reporting crimes.

In his State of the Union Speech the President pledged to make the statistics known.

Starik
Starik

@Our porous borders @Starik That's not true. There are lots of illegals in Federal prison for drug offenses, but they worked in an industry that we created with our stupid laws, with illegal pot at the very top.  Most violent crime is in state courts, such as Robbery, Carjacking, Rape, and all the various forms of Murder. Legalize the illegals unless they're real criminals, and I don't mean people with old DUIs and the like.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I am waiting for AVG Georgian to comment about how it is not the business of taxpayers to pay to send a child to private school. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Spending on Special Education has probably increased 1000 percent over 1960, and I would bet that educational outcomes have barely increased 1%.  The kids who could only tie their shoes in 1960 probably could only tie their shoes in 2017.  We need to prioritize spending based on outcomes, not on "fairness" (whatever that is). The extra money that is spent on SPED students comes out of the money spent on the average student.  Plus, by requiring students to be placed in the "least restrictive environment", they make teaching the average student much harder.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog And of course those who can only tie their shoes are a tiny, tiny minority of those in Special Ed.  Yet you still stick to that story without understanding the broad range of students that fall in that category.  Some are straight A students when their needs are met.  That's the problem.  Some schools and some school districts try to do the minimum.  They don't want to bother with helping them succeed.  In fact, in a lot of cases they do things that make it more likely that they fail.  They're lazy and/or ignorant of the issues.  Its the same attitude they had towards many minority and poor students before NCLB forced them to pay attention.  Its the school districts that force these lawsuits.

Astropig
Astropig

@bu22 @class80olddog


"And of course those who can only tie their shoes are a tiny, tiny minority of those in Special Ed.  "


Exactly. I know two (former) Spec Ed students real well.They have different,but equally challenging learning disabilities.The worry and fear that their parents experienced when they were young is hard to overstate.Of course they were safe and secure while young,because mom and dad would always be around to help and encourage,teach and train.Their parents could reassure them when the mean students would make fun of them and harass them in the halls and on the playground.Thei parents could stand up for them to ensure that the eduacracy didn't put them on the back burner and (like Justice Roberts pointed out )"wait for them to drop out".


They have gone through school together and then vocational training and currently work in a field that many of the best educated people reading these words could never do-Nursing Assistant for elder care. Alzheimers,disabled,hospice-they do jobs that most of us couldn't handle because it so emotionally draining and physically exhausting (shift work,working holidays etc).


These two have impeccable,enviable work ethic(s),a dump truck full of empathy and kindness (their patients die regularly) and no sense of entitlement to anything other than baked treats in their break room at work (I make them key lime torte and double fudge brownies on a regular basis).They are productive,tax paying citizens that do a job that most of us could never do, but almost all of us will some day need.


I applaud the SC for their ruling in this case,because one of these former students is my daughter.

Starik
Starik

@Astropig @bu22 @class80olddog Application of common sense would be nice. People who are profoundly or severely retarded don't belong in a regular classroom. If a kid has cerebral palsy and a good, undamaged brain he should be there. The question should be the potential benefit to the disabled child and the potential disruption to regular classes.

class80olddog
class80olddog

What needs to happen is that the Federal Department of Education is disbanded, and all Federal money to schools are ceased.  In that case, the Federal IDEA has no teeth and States can make their own rules about what is appropriate education and what is not. The Feds created IDEA as an unfunded mandate and then expect States to pay for it. 


taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog Maybe IDEA was created because we tried that way before, and students were denied an education because they were deaf or blind or in a wheelchair, or they were simply warehoused and not taught.  There's a reason why we have a federal law that requires schools to provide an appropriate education.  Leaving up to the states proved a disaster.  Since this decision was 8-0, I don't think it's just a liberal wingnut belief either.  Alito AND Thomas voted for it, and I doubt you'd find two more conservative jurists if you tried.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

To all, I would assume there is wide variation in special education services across districts and perhaps even schools so we can't know that every school has high standards. What I find interesting about the Supreme Court decision is that it reinforces that districts must pay for private schools when the parent feels the child's needs are not being met in the public school as in the case before the high court -- the problem has been that some specialized programs for kids with signifiicant education needs are expensive, even as much as $60,000 a year. There have been news stories over the years about how that has been a challenge for small, poor districts. I assume those are the rarities -- many kids using Georgia's special education vouchers are not in such high-priced programs. Is that your experience as teachers in the field?

vahiwek
vahiwek


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Tange English
Tange English

The standards are high already! We would love for them to meet those that exist! Sometimes they have a sense of learned helplessness!

Kate Maloney
Kate Maloney

To me, it means recognize that twice exceptional children have the gifted side too.

Chanda RobertsWhite
Chanda RobertsWhite

Please explain what "setting higher standards" to those with disabilities means. I have DES students who cannot meet the curriculum standards. There is one teacher who sits with him for reading/ELA and Math for each 110 minute period. Each of us writes his notes because he "doesn't like to write". We have provided tapes of discussions, but mom complains that we should be uploading podcast. Gave him a paper quiz rather than using Edmodo. Mom printed out quiz and "helped" him create a foldable at home. She wanted that perfect foldable to replace his quiz grade. So what are we supposed to be doing beyond what we are doing for students with disabilities? Providing technology software for all home computers and tablets that are potentially used by the student is a way to assist the students. Providing technology tutorials to families, the student, and the teacher is beneficial. I believe this family wanted the school district to pay for tutors, private school, different books, different curriculum for their son. Can we really do that for every single child and family? One teacher with 32 different "request" on how to teach a student seems to be more pressure for teachers. There will be an exodus of teachers with this expensive expectation.

Claudia Gardner
Claudia Gardner

I was going to write something similar, but you've covered it all. Thank you

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

Truly we need to change our schools completely but what we are doing isn't working.