Endrew F

Submitted by Tim on Fri, 04/21/2017 - 09:17 AM

Since I last wrote about the legal measure of an IEP, there have been significant legal developments. In March 2017, the Supreme Court decided Endrew F v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that school districts must do substantially more than the minimum. School districts are still not required to maximize a student's potential, with all the difficulties that result from that stance. But an IEP "must be appropriate in light of the child's circumstances."  

For a student who can be mainstreamed, the student should be "progressing smoothly through the regular curriculum." For students who are not mainstreamed, the IEP must be ambitious. In other words, every student "should have the chance to meet challenging objectives."  

Also interesting is the Court's discussion of deference to school district decisions. Courts cannot create educational policy. But school districts must bring expertise to bear on problems in support of their choices about how to educate the student. A Court "may fairly expect those authorities to be able to offer a cogent and responsive explanation for their decisions." This means that, in litigation, I may be able to convince a judge to apply less deference to a school district decision that is not supported by contemporaneous cogent and responsive reasoning.

In sum, this Supreme Court decision will create a major change in the process of drafting IEPs. Before, school districts could rely on the expectation of a collaborative process to make a take-it-or-leave-it offer, then use parental objections as evidence of non-collaboration. Now, parents have some leverage to make the process truly collaborative.

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