The Supreme Court heard a case on January 11 about a boy with autism whose parents sued his elementary school for lack of progress on his Individual Education Program (IEP). Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District addresses how much educational benefit a student must receive through their IEP. In this instance, Drew—the boy named in the case—attended school in Douglas County, Colorado, from kindergarten through fifth grade. During this time, his parents felt he made little progress on his IEP goals, according to a blog post about the case on the site Understood. His parents also claim his goals mostly stayed the same each year.
Drew’s parents eventually moved him to a private school specializing in children with autism. With the added supports at his new school, Drew quickly began improving his academic performance. His parents then sued Douglas County for the private school tuition, stating that their son didn’t benefit enough from the public school’s IEP and that he clearly had the ability to improve. The basis for the suit is that Drew didn’t receive a free and appropriate education under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Lower courts ruled against Drew’s parents.
Policy experts expect the decision for the Endrew F. case—expected this summer—to have big ramifications for schools, special educators and parents of children with IEPs. The decision could increase requirements regarding the educational benefit of an IEP—or it could maintain that benefit standards remain flexible for individual students and situations.