In The Politics of Autism, I write about IEPs:
At these meetings, the district has several advantages, starting with Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley (1982), the first IDEA case to reach the Supreme Court. Amy Rowley was a hearing-impaired girl whose parents wanted her to have a qualified sign-language interpreter in all of her academic classes. The Court said that the district was already supplying her with sufficient supports, and that the law did not require this additional step. Even though the legislation’s sponsors said that its goal was educational equality, the majority found that there was no substantive language in the statute itself regarding the level of education that children with disabilities must get:
While Congress sought to provide assistance to the States in carrying out their constitutional responsibilities to provide equal protection of the laws, it did not intend to achieve strict equality of opportunity or services for handicapped and nonhandicapped children, but rather sought primarily to identify and evaluate handicapped children, and to provide them with access to a free public education. The Act does not require a State to maximize the potential of each handicapped child commensurate with the opportunity provided nonhandicapped children.[i]
[The US Suprme Court] asked the federal government to provide its views in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the case of an autistic child whose parents’ dissatisfaction with his education in a local public school led them to enroll him in a private school and seek reimbursement for the cost of tuition. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Endrew and other children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education, which is implemented through an individualized education program, or “IEP” – a program tailored specifically to each child. But the courts of appeals disagree on what kind of educational benefits schools must provide. The Tenth Circuit held in Endrew’s case that schools must merely provide some non-trivial benefit, other courts of appeals have held that schools must provide a substantial benefit, and other courts fall somewhere in the middle. There is no deadline for the federal government to file its brief, but it is likely to do so in the fall.