Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Dome of State House in Hartford, ConnecticutEarlier this month, the General Assembly passed House Bill 7276, now Public Act 17-220, which contains a number of provisions aimed at providing “mandate relief” to boards of education.  Section 5 of Public Act 17-220, effective July 1, 2017, makes significant changes to the physical restraint and seclusion training requirements that were enacted as part of Public Act 15-141 (now codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-236b).  While this new law must still must be signed by the Governor to become law, school districts may wish to consider these revisions as they plan for staff professional development.
Continue Reading Legislature Revises Physical Restraint and Seclusion Training Requirements

School classroom in Japanese high schoolIEPs Must Be Reasonably Calculated to Enable Appropriate Progress in Light of Child’s Circumstances

For the first time in nearly 35 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has addressed the legal standard by which courts determine whether a school district has provided a student with a disability a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) through an individualized education program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Specifically, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, No. 15-827 (U.S. March 22, 2017), the Court held in a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts that, “[t]o meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Id. at 11 (slip op.).
Continue Reading Supreme Court Clarifies FAPE Standard in Endrew F. Case

classroom, traditional wooden desks and chairs, pigeon holesOn February 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, No. 15-487 (2017), which
Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules That Parents Need Not Exhaust IDEA Due Process Procedures for Non-FAPE Disability Discrimination Claims

On January 11, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas County School District RE 1, Docket No. 15-187, to address the level of benefit a school must confer on students to provide them with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA.  The Court’s ultimate ruling on the case could have provide some clarity as to what constitutes a FAPE, especially for students with severe disabilities.

In 1982, the Supreme Court stated that the IDEA required districts to provide students with special needs with “some educational benefit.”  Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist., Westchester Cty. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 200 (1982).  It stated that for students who participated in the regular education curriculum, this meant schools had to provide the student with a program that was “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.”  Id. at 204.  It did not articulate a similar test for determining when students who were not participating in the general education curriculum were receiving “some educational benefit.”

In Endrew F., the student petitioner argued that the Supreme Court should clarify that, for such students, “some benefit” meant more than a “barely de minimis educational benefit.”  He urged the Court to interpret the IDEA to require schools to provide programs for students not participating in the general education curriculum that were “reasonably calculated to provide substantially equal educational opportunities” and included “standards, that were the highest possible achievable by the student.”  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, however, that this was the standard the majority of the Court rejected in Rowley.  The petitioner responded that Congress had amended the IDEA twice since the Rowley decision, indicating an intent to require districts to provide students with “[e]qual educational opportunity.”
Continue Reading Oral Argument Presented in Supreme Court Case Addressing the Level of Educational Benefit that must be Provided under IDEA

On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case of Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas County School District RE 1, Docket No. 15-187  to decide the 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 (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.?” See Appellant’s Petition for Certiorari.  At issue is how courts have applied the well-known Rowley FAPE standard, announced by the Supreme Court in 1982, which provides that a school district must provide an individualized education program that allows a child with a disability to receive “educational benefit.” See Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 200 (1982).  The Rowley case expressly rejected a potential-maximizing FAPE standard. Id. at 198-99.  Since Rowley, lower courts subsequently have described the Rowley standard as ranging from requiring “some” or merely “more than trivial” benefit to requiring “meaningful” benefit.  Congress has amended what is now known as the IDEA several times since the Rowley case, most notably in 1986, 1990, 1997, and 2004, but Congress has never expressly provided a standard by which to analyze whether a child’s programming and services substantively provide the child with FAPE.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Revisit Rowley IDEA FAPE Standard for First Time in Nearly 35 Years

On September 16, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in a precedential decision that, as a technical legal matter, a
Continue Reading Second Circuit Holds IDEA Eligibility Does Not Automatically Result in Section 504/ADA Eligibility; Practical Implications Are Not That Simple

PuzzleHeadImageThe Office for Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) within the U.S. Department of Education recently issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” indicating its concern that students with
Continue Reading OSEP Dear Colleague Letter Reminds Districts to Consider Speech/Language Needs for Students with Autism