Supreme Court reverses interpretation Gorsuch helped craft

23 March, 2017, 01:36 | Author: Bridget Leonard

The NPR report notes that Judge Neil Gorsuch, now in confirmation hearings to fill the vacant ninth seat on the court, has ruled in eight out of ten cases involving students with disabilities toward limiting the responsibilities of public school districts.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision ruled for a family that had a sued a local school district over special education accommodations for children with disabilities. As such, IDEA requires schools to offer an "individualized education program" (IEP) to ensure each student with disabilities progresses. "The IDEA seeks to provide children with genuine access to public education", they argued.

In August 2015, the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the school district did provide a "a free appropriate public education". Instead, Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous court, concluded that compliance with IDEA requires schools to "offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances". 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. Democrats said that in eight out of 10 cases as a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, Gorsuch sided with school districts rather than disabled students in lawsuits filed under the law.

"I am going to try to apply the law", Gorsuch said.

"To suggest I have some animus against children, senator, would be a mistake", Gorsuch said. The decision is likely to require a rethinking of the benefits to disabled students provided by public school districts across the country, and is expected to lead to increased litigation challenging the provision of disability benefits provided by those schools (Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District). Dick Durbin is questioning Judge Gorsuch on this. School officials had cautioned that imposing higher standards could be too costly for some cash-strapped districts.


NEA urged the court to adopt exactly that approach in its amicus brief in the Endrew case. They asked the school district to reimburse them for his tuition - about $70,000 a year - on the basis that public school officials weren't doing enough to meet their son's needs.

As a result of the decision, Bossing said, "we'll see schools start to think more carefully about how they can support students with disabilities and how they can make progress and achieve proficiency, and we'll see courts who are reviewing disputes between parents and schools understand that this is a higher standard". The achievement levels of students in special education are among the lowest in Alabama, on par with children who are just beginning to learn the English language.

The Colorado Department of Education denied their claim, saying the school district had met the minimum standards required under the law.

The court decision expands the definition of what "appropriate" means. That year was especially rocky for Drew, as the school reported he climbed over furniture and other students, hit things, screamed, ran away from school, and twice removed his clothing and went to the bathroom on the floor of the classroom. Gorsuch has been involved in over ten cases involving students with disabilities.

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