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]
Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (scheduled for arguments, January 11)
The case addresses the following question: “What is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with the free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?”
A 15-year-old Littleton, Colo., student, identified only as Endrew F. (his parents call him “Drew”), is challenging a federal appeals court ruling. The youth is autistic and has attention deficit disorder, compromising his verbal and non-verbal communications skills.
When his parents and school officials couldn’t agree on a plan for him in public schools, he was placed in a private school that specializes in teaching autistic students. The family then sued to recover the private school tuition, contending that the school district was obliged to pay because it failed to provide Drew with an adequate educational opportunity. A trial judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the challenge, finding that the law only required a benefit just above the trivial, and that Drew had done a bit better than that in public school.Links to amicus briefs here.