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Decision made on the standard for a ‘free appropriate public education’

The U.S. Supreme Court, last month, made its ruling in a special education case.

The case regarded what standard schools have to meet to comply with the right to a ‘free appropriate public education" that federal special education law provides to students that have disabilities.

In its decision, the court ruled that the standard for complying with these rights goes beyond just taking efforts that go above a “de minimus” level. Rather, it held the standard for public schools to be that they must be “appropriately ambitious" in their education plans for students with disabilities. 

Now, court decisions regarding what standards schools have to meet to comply with federal special education law can be incredibly impactful on special needs students. However, it is currently unclear what exact impacts the recent ruling will have. There are multiple reasons for this.

For one, some argue that there are a fair number of public schools that have already been using the newly established standard or an even higher one when it comes to their special education services. So, there are questions regarding how many school policies and practices will actually change in the wake of the ruling.

Also, while the decision put the “appropriately ambitious” standard in place, it did not set out a specific formula for what does and does not meet this standard. Given this, it will be interesting to see how schools and courts end up interpreting this standard.

Whatever changes and impacts this decision ends up having, it will remain important for parents of special needs students to stay informed of what they can do to stand up for their child’s education rights when they feel their child’s rights may not be getting fully respected by their child’s school.

Education lawyers can provide parents of children with disabilities with explanations of what special education rights their child has under state and federal laws. They can also guide parents though the process of responding to suspected violations of these rights by schools.

Source: NPR, “This Week In Education: Supreme Court Rules On Special Ed; Senator Slams Vouchers,” Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner, March 25, 2017

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