11.21.16

SCOTUS: Led by Sen. Murray & Rep. Scott, 118 Lawmakers File Bicameral Amicus Brief to Safeguard Rights of Students With Disabilities to Receive Meaningful Public Education

Supreme Court to hear Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, a case about the level of educational benefit school districts must provide students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

 

Today, current and former Members of Congress filed an amicus brief to affirm Congressional intent to raise expectations for the quality of education provided to students with disabilities under IDEA

 

At stake in the case is the ability of students with disabilities to receive access to meaningful public education

 

Members of Congress: “Congress intended…IDEA to provide meaningful educational benefits for students with disabilities and—significantly—raise expectations for their educational outcomes.”

 

(Washington, D.C) - Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, led a bicameral group of 118 current and former Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States, this case focuses on what Congress intended when it required that school districts provide students with disabilities a “free appropriate public education” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congress has repeatedly reaffirmed through multiple reauthorizations of IDEA that school districts have an obligation to provide educational benefit to students with disabilities that is substantial, not trivial.

 

However, if the Supreme Court were to uphold the lower court ruling that IDEA requires only a slightly more than de minimus educational benefit, it would negate the clear meaning of IDEA, diminish the statute to a paperwork formality, and could turn back years of progress made by students with disabilities.

 

In the amicus brief to the Supreme Court, Senator Murray and Members of Congress who led IDEA reauthorization efforts argue that the statute clearly intended to provide meaningful and material educational benefits to students with disabilities so that they may reach their full potential and live independent lives.

 

“Congress passed the [IDEA] to ensure that students with disabilities receive meaningful education benefits in school. Prior to the passage of the [IDEA], millions of children with disabilities effectively were denied an education in public schools in this country—either because they received little to no education in the classroom, or because they were shut out of schools altogether,” Members of Congress wrote in the brief. “Respondent asks this Court to adopt a drastically lower standard than the meaningful educational benefit that Congress intended to enable students with disabilities to attain their full potential…Congress enacted the IDEA to solve the real and serious problem of under-education of students with disabilities.”

 

Full list of current and former Senate signers include: Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

 

Full list of current and former House signers include: Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA), Alma S. Adams (D-NC), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Robert A. Brady (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mike Honda (D-CA), Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX),  Henry C. "Hank" Johnson Jr. (D-GA), William R. Keating (D-MA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), James R. Langevin (D-RI), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sander M. Levin (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-CA), Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), George Miller (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Richard M. Nolan (D-MN), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO), Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), José E. Serrano (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Paul D. Tonko (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

 

Read the full text of the amicus brief HERE.

 

Background on Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case

 

Endrew F. (Drew), a student with autism, attended a public school in Colorado from preschool to fourth grade. During this time, Drew received some special education services but made minimal progress. His parents rejected the district’s individualized education plan (IEP) for fifth grade, which guides the education of a student with a disability, and withdrew him from public school to place him in a private school that specialized in providing services for students with autism. He made substantial progress at the new school and his parents filed a due process claim to seek reimbursement from the public school district for the tuition of the private school, which is allowed under IDEA. The family claimed the school district denied Drew a free appropriate public education because it was unable to provide him with an educational benefit.

 

The administrative hearing officer determined that IDEA is only “designed to provide a floor” of educational quality and, as Drew had received “some” educational benefit, the school did not deny his rights under IDEA. The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and the Tenth Circuit Court agreed with the hearing officer. The Tenth Circuit observed that it was a “close case” and that Drew had made “just above-trivial” academic progress, thus the school district had satisfied its obligations. Other Circuit Courts have reached different conclusions in similar cases.

 

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