New Standard for FAPE
Program Must Allow Child to Make Progress “Appropriate in Light of Child’s Circumstances”
The decades-old standard for what constitutes a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities was changed in an opinion issued this week by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court created a new standard in Endrew F. et al. v. Douglas County School District RE-1.
The long-standing standard in the Rowley case of “some educational benefit” is now expanded to obligate school districts to develop individualized educational programs that are “appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Additionally, the Court stated that educational programs for children with disabilities must be “appropriately ambitious,” comparing the standards that typically developing children face when advancing from grade to grade.
This case changes how school districts will need to develop IEPs for students. It will be important to have a complete understanding of the child’s anticipated progress based on his or her disability when developing goals. The decision clearly indicates a preference for children to be educated in the general education setting and the Court encourages school districts to write goals that will be “challenging” for students with IEPs. This standard calls into question how the least restrictive environment will be considered going forward.
School districts should begin analyzing IEPs with more scrutiny to determine whether the heightened standard from Endrew F. is being met. IEP teams should anticipate that this decision will become a topic of conversation at IEP meetings almost immediately. Goals that were once considered appropriate may now not be ambitious enough to meet the new standard. IEP teams should be collecting data to determine what a child’s circumstances truly are in order to develop appropriate programming.
For more information regarding the Endrew F. case and specific school district requirements, please contact the author of this Legal Alert listed at the right in the firm’s Education Law practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
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