The Supreme Court Helps Children with Disabilities Receive A Proper Eduction


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supreme court special education ruling

On March 22, the Supreme Court of the United States of America made an unanimous ruling that will (hopefully) allows children that require special education to receive a proper education.

The 8-0 ruling in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case states that schools must do more than provide a “merely more than de minimis” education for students with disabilities and instead must provide them with an opportunity to make “appropriately ambitious” progress in line with the federal education law.

As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, who recently started kindergarten, I’m thrilled to see the Supreme Court pass this ruling – especially by an unanimous vote! Honesty, having a child in the public school system has been eye opening for me. The first few months of Noah’s schooling was stressful and frustrating. It felt like everything was such a fight to get Noah what the law says the school has to provide, which is simply;

…to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

My wife and I had to escalate things all the way to the school district’s office in order to help Noah get the resources that he needed to stay in the LRE (least restrictive environment.) At some point we’ll write a blog post about that experience, but it did teach me that the education system for children with “special needs” is a mess and something needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong, Noah’s principal, his teach, his aids, etc are fantastic, but it doesn’t seem like everyone is aware of what the laws are and how those laws apply to children like Noah. Teachers and staff aren’t always aware of the laws, and if they are they may not know how to apply the law on a case by case basis. (For instance, the law says that they can’t deny you services because they don’t have the “budget” – therefore someone from the district level must help these local schools obey the law by hiring staff, providing resources, etc.)

Our story isn’t unique. The horror stories I’ve heard form parents are frustrating, and quite frankly exhausting for parents who have to basically study for the LSAT just to get their child what is required under the law. But I digress…

What I especially like about this ruling is that “a student offered an education program providing a ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” This is great! Now that Noah is included in the “typical” classroom for a good portion of the day, I want to make sure that he is actually learning. Not simply playing with toys, or coloring in a coloring book. I want him to learn, and this court case says that schools must do that! I do believe Noah is learning, but I do sometimes struggle with knowing exactly what he is learning, how they are adapting the curriculum for him, etc. I want him learning, not simply being promoted from grade to grade – which is what this ruling specifically addresses.

If you’re a parent of a child with a learning disability reading this, take hope! The law is on your side. Don’t give up. Spend some time reading up on the IDEA Act, and don’t be afraid to take things to the district level if need be.

How do you feel about this new ruling? How was your experience been with your child’s school? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

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