U.S. Supreme Court Requires Schools to Provide a Special Needs Student More Than a “De Minimis” Education

On March 22, 2017, the United States Supreme Court handed down a unanimous ruling in Endrew F., et al. v. Douglas County School District RE-1. In a decision that will have far-reaching implications in the area of special education, the Court held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) “requires that students with disabilities be provided with an educational program that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” In 1982, the Supreme Court determined in Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist., Westchester Cty. v. Rowley that the IDEA requires that every child be provided with a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”). The Rowley Court did not, however, adopt a standard for determining whether a child is receiving a sufficient educational benefit to satisfy this mandate. Rather, the Court stated that a child has received a FAPE if the Individual Education Plan (“IEP”) provides an education program “that is reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits,” and otherwise limited its analysis to the facts of the Rowley case. Endrew F., an autistic child, was enrolled in a public school and educated pursuant to...