On September 29, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case. By granting certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to address the issue of defining the term “some educational benefit” as it applies to students with disabilities.

As HLERK previously reported, Endrew F. concerns a student eligible for special education and related services under the eligibility criteria of autism. 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 in the due process case ruled in favor of the school district on the basis that Endrew had been provided with a free and appropriate public education because he received “some” educational benefit in the Douglas County schools.

Endrew’s parents appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The district court affirmed the hearing officer’s decision, noting that Endrew exhibited progress, albeit minimal, on his IEP goals and as a result he had been provided with a FAPE.

Endrew’s parents appealed the case again to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The appellate court held that the term “some educational benefit” means that the student is receiving any educational benefit that is more than de minimis. The appellate court affirmed the district court on the basis that Endrew’s academic progress, again albeit minimal, showed that he received more than a de minimis educational benefit.

Different judicial circuits around the country have taken different positions on what “some educational benefit” means. Endrew’s parents’ appeal asks the U.S. Supreme Court to define the term “some educational benefit” when it decides the Endrew F. case.

HLERK will continue to follow this case closely and will report on any important developments on its website and in future issues of The Extra Mile.

With questions on special education and the meaning of “some educational benefit” in Illinois, please contact Michelle Todd, Jennifer Deutch, Jay Kraning, or Kaitlin Atlas.