United States Supreme Court Considering Special Education Case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently asked the United States government to file a brief expressing its views on the meaning of educational benefit in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case.

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 given the fact that 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 (“FAPE”) 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 Tenth Circuit held that the term “some educational benefit” means that the student is receiving any educational benefit that is more than de minimis. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the U.S. district court on the basis that Endrew’s academic progress, again albeit minimal, showed that he received more than a de minimis educational benefit.

Endrew’s parents appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue before all of the lower courts has been how to define the term “some educational benefit.” Different judicial circuits around the country have taken different positions on what “some educational benefit” means.

As the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear this case, it has invited the Solicitor General to file a brief to express the views of the United States on the meaning of “some educational benefit.” HLERK will continue to follow this case closely and will report on any important developments in future issues of The Extra Mile.

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

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