Supreme Court’s Review of Special Education Case Yields Astonishingly Naive Reactions from Justices
I blogged earlier this month about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case involving a special education student’s IEP in Colorado and after reading today’s NYTimes article on this issue am compelled to revisit the case given the astonishingly naive reaction of several of the justices to the case. For example, Adam Liptak reports that Judge Alioto reacted to the case as follows:
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the court was being asked to choose among several finely shaded formulations. “What is frustrating about this case and about this statute is that we have a blizzard of words,” he said.
My reaction having dealt with special education litigation for decades? You’re surprised that this statute has resulted in cases that yield a “blizzard of words”? Give your local Superintendent or local Director of Special Education a call…. they can give you scores of similar cases!
And here’s another Justice’s reaction:
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that a new standard might also invite costly litigation. “If we suddenly adopt a new standard, all over the country we’ll have judges and lawyers and people interpreting it differently,” he said. “I foresee taking the money that ought to go to the children and spending it on lawsuits and lawyers and all kinds of things that are extraneous.”
My reaction is: Where have you been? We are already living under a litigious cloud and spending money that “ought to go to the children” on “lawsuits and lawyers and all kinds of things that are extraneous. Again, your local Superintendent or local Director of Special Education can give you scores of examples!
And then there was this paragraph:
Several justices expressed concerns about the potential financial burdens on school districts. “Is there any place to discuss the cost that would be incurred for, say, severely disabled students?” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked.
Maybe I’ve been too close to the budgeting issues over the past several decades, but I’d have to respond to this in the same way: Where have you been? The legislature has not fully funded this law since it was written and as a result districts ALREADY have a financial burden! Again, your local Superintendent, local Director of Special Education, and local business manager can give you all kinds of facts and figures!
And last, but not least, I want to be completely clear that I am on the side of the parents’ attorney on this issue: public schools should be required “to provide substantially equal educational opportunities” to disabled children and the costs to do so should not be a mitigating factor. I’d even take it a step further to say that public schools should be required “to provide substantially equal educational opportunities” to ALL children and the costs to do so should not be a mitigating factor. But the Supreme Court justices probably think this is already the case…. and if they believe this they should contact their local Superintendent who would set them straight.