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 case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 (No. 15-827), raises an important question that has divided federal appeals courts: What level of educational benefit must a child receive under his or her individualized education program, or IEP, to satisfy the demands of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, ruled last year in the case of a Colorado child with autism that because the child's public school IEP had provided him with "some educational benefit," the Douglas County district had provided a "free, appropriate public education" under the IDEA.
The 10th Circuit court thus rejected a private school reimbursement for the parents of the boy identified as Endrew F. after the parents had pulled him from public school amid the dispute over his 5th grade IEP.
In an August 2015 decision, the 10th Circuit court panel acknowledged that several other federal courts of appeals have adopted a higher standard that requires an IEP to result in a "meaningful educational benefit."
But the 10th Circuit, agreeing with a lower court in Endrew F.'s case, said that a key 1982 Supreme Court precedent on special education, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, merely requires an IEP to provide "some educational benefit."