The US Supreme Court today issued a major unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District which will have far-reaching implications for the nearly 7 million students with disabilities in the United States.  The Court overturned a lower court ruling that sided in favor of school district.  The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a “free appropriate public education” to all students with disabilities. Today’s opinion held that “appropriate” goes further than what the lower courts had held.

Click here to read the ruling.

The Court’s opinion, signed by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that a special needs student’s “educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”

“It cannot be right that the IDEA generally contemplates grade-level advancement for children with disabilities who are fully integrated in the regular classroom, but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for children who are not.”

“When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” Roberts said. “For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to sitting idly awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out.”