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As we have previously reported, in March 2017, the United States Supreme Court held a student’s IEP must be “reasonably calculated to receive educational benefits.” The case involved a student who was eligible for special education and related services under the eligibility criteria of autism. The student, Endrew, attended public schools at the Douglas County School District in Castle Rock, Colorado, from preschool through fourth grade. When it came time to plan for Endrew’s fifth grade year, Endrew’s parents rejected the IEP proposed, unilaterally placed Endrew in a private school, and filed for due process. Endrew’s parents argued that the IEP was insufficient because the IEP proposed for fifth grade was nearly identical to the IEP for fourth grade. Further, Endrew’s parents pointed to his severe behavioral deterioration. The hearing officer, the District Court for the District of Colorado, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit all held in the school district’s favor.

The United States Supreme Court vacated the Tenth Circuit decision in favor of the school district and remanded the case back to the Tenth Circuit for proceedings consistent with this opinion. The Tenth Circuit, in turn, vacated its prior holding and remanded the matter back to the District Court. On remand, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado reversed the Hearing Officer’s decision in favor of the school district based on the new standard articulated by the Supreme Court. Specifically, the District Court opinion stated, “The issue before me now is whether the IEP offered by the District to the Petitioner in this case at the time his parent withdrew him from public school was reasonably calculated to enable him to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.” The Tenth Circuit found that Endrew’s IEP was “insufficient to create an educational plan that was reasonably calculated to enable Petitioner to make progress, even in light of his unique circumstances, based on the continued pattern of unambitious goals and objectives of his prior IEPs,” and as a result held that Endrew’s parents are entitled to reimbursement for Endrew’s private school tuition, along with attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. The Tenth Circuit ordered the Parents to file a brief specifying the costs they seek to recover from the school district.

Please contact Kaitlin Atlas or Bennett Rodick with your questions on the Endrew F. decision.