KU Professor Lauds Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Special Education

Nick Gosnell

Students with disabilities will now have an opportunity for a better education in the opinion of a University of Kansas professor after a unanimous ruling Wednesday by the United States Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The standard that had been used prior to Wednesday was that the student’s education program must be one from which the student must be reasonably expected to benefit. That standard was set in 1982.

“The Court opted not to set a general standard again,” said Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor of Special Education at the University of Kansas, Michael Wehmeyer. “There’s this language in the ruling that talks about progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances. That’s reflecting the fact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act emphasizes individualization.”

It’s because the needs are different for each student that there is no one size fits all standard.

“The Court was not only stating that what has to be demonstrated is something more than minimum progress,” said Wehmeyer. “The Court, in my reading, and I’m not an attorney, is reflecting the higher expectations in the Act; the presumption that children with disabilities can make progress.”

The Court also made an important explicit statement in its opinion.

“Although goals may differ for students, every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives,” Wehmeyer quoted. He added, “the bar for what is appropriate in terms of a free, appropriate public education for students receiving Special Education services has been raised fundamentally and I believe that the Court aligned that standard with current language and expectations.”

IDEA requires that children with disabilities receive education in the regular classroom whenever possible.