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Supreme Court to Weigh in on Contents of IEP in Special Ed Case

January 6, 2017

Diane Ravitch devoted a blog post yesterday to a lengthy overview of a forthcoming Supreme Court case on the comprehensiveness of an IEP written for a rising fifth grade student who was autistic. Reading between the lines, it appears that the parents refused to accept the IEP presented by the district and also refused to offer an alternative. The parents then unilaterally enrolled their child in a private school and— in all probability— sent the bill for that school to the district. This narrative is based on this section of the lengthy overview of the case:

“Moreover, the school district adds, neither Drew and his family nor the federal government has indicated what, under these standards, Drew’s “fifth-grade IEP ought to have said. And if they cannot say, it is hard to imagine how a court could.”

It APPEARS from this sentence that the dispute between the parents and the district is over the language to include in the IEP… and how a court can make that determination is beyond me. From my perspective it would help schools clarify the purpose of IEPS if the dispute was over specific IEP language and not over some abstraction. Replacing a “de minimus” standard with a nebulous “MORE than de minimus” standard would not be helpful or clarifying. The lengthy overview of the case, though, does illustrate the kinds of knots public schools face when they assume responsibility for educating ALL children, knots that charter schools can avoid by refusing to accept special needs children or by accepting only those with relatively easy-to-address learning disabilities.

As I read to the end of the post, this paragraph stood out:

“Drew (the student who is aggrieved) and his family have the support of (among others) over a hundred members of Congress, who in a “friend of the court” filing criticize the “more than de minimis” standard as a “vanishingly low” one that “runs contrary to Congress’s intentions.”

As I noted in a comment I left on Diane Ravitch’s site, I hope these same members of Congress will file a bill to fully fund special education so that public schools can fulfill Congress’ intentions… and I also hope they will be asking Ms. DeVos what she intends to do to ensue that ALL school districts in the country offer “more than de minimis” standard… but the chance of either of these occurring, I fear, is “vanishingly low”

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