Reaction- The Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District decision clarifies what is, and is not, required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The decision itself has shifted, somewhat, the burden of proof from mainly on the schools to the parents (as the party seeking relief and a change of the status quo of the current IEP plan and services actually being provided). The first requirement that can be determined is a call for the compliance with IEP procedures.
Is there a proper team assembled and have the student’s disabilities been properly diagnosed? Secondly, was the plan itself reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits? In Rowley, the student, although hearing impaired was bright and her progress was able to be measured along side of the other students in a regular education setting. Therefore she could be judged as successful by achieving good marks and progressing to subsequent grade levels. Thirdly, setting is extremely important in determining if there is an appropriate education being provided. Endrew F.
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was a student who was not in a regular education classroom, due to his autism. Therefore he could not be measured against the students who were attending regular classes. The school district wanted Endrew to be measured by the more than “de minimis” standard of Rowley, some educational benefit as opposed to none at all. Endrew’s parents petitioned for progress to be measured against children without disabilities and with more rigor.
Yet the Court did not overturn the Rowley decision. They emphasized that Rowley’s progress and performance was proof itself of her receiving adequate benefits. The Endrew decision, however, depended on his different individual characteristics, as his disabilities portrayed unique needs and circumstances that the Court had to consider. Therefore, there could be no hard and fast rule established to measure educational benefits.
In addition, the Court reiterated that the IDEA does not “guarantee any particular level of education,” and that it “cannot and does not promise any particular educational outcome” (Endrew F., 2017). Moreover, in the new Endrew F. FAPE standard, the Court retained the “reasonably calculated” qualification. The Court explained that the qualification “reflects a recognition that crafting an appropriate program of education requires a prospective judgment by school officials” based on the specific facts related to a student and informed by school officials’ expertise and input from the parents or guardians (Endrew F.
, 2017). The Court further observed that “any review of an IEP must appreciate that the question is whether the IEP is reasonable, not whether the court regards it as ideal” (Endrew F., 2017). The Court maintained that they would not substitute their own ideas of how to educate children in place of those who have the expertise in education, along with input from the parents/guardians. Without a guarantee, an IEP plan can only be judged by its reasonability when drawn up by a qualified team.
The mandate for the team is to develop an educational program that they reasonably believe will deliver an outcome where the student is able to progress according to their unique circumstances and one that services the student’s needs. It is progress not regression that is strived for when considering the child’s individual ability. As the Supreme Court suggests, these officials should “be able to offer a cogent and responsive explanation for their decisions that shows the IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances” (Endrew F., 2017)