United States Supreme Court to Consider Whether to Adopt a Heightened FAPE Standard
For the first time since 1982, the United States Supreme Court will consider what level of educational benefit a school must deliver to a student receiving special education services in order to meet the Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”).
Currently, circuits are split on what level of educational benefit a school must deliver in order to provide FAPE. The Tenth Circuit, among others, merely requires schools to provide “some educational benefit”. On the other hand, the First Circuit (which includes Massachusetts) and others require schools to provide a heightened educational benefit – one that is “meaningful.” “Meaningful” is otherwise understood as “more than . . . trivial.”
The case being heard by the Supreme Court is Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, RE-1. In this case, the parents believed that their son with autism was not being provided FAPE by their local school district in Colorado. Due to their concerns, they unilaterally placed him in a private school and sought reimbursement from their local school district. The hearing officer, U.S. district court, and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found in the school district’s favor, concluding that the student was being provided FAPE because he was receiving “some educational benefit.”
The Obama administration, after being asked to weigh in by the Supreme Court, urged the Supreme Court to adopt the “meaningful benefit” standard, which now applies in Massachusetts.
The Supreme Court’s decision will likely impact students receiving special education services in Massachusetts and throughout the country. We remain hopeful that the Court will recognize the importance of providing “meaningful” benefits to students requiring special education services.
For more information, please contact us at 781-930-3127
Special Education Lawyer | Massachusetts | Boston