In a unanimous 8 to 0 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that schools must provide students with disabilities the opportunity to make “appropriately ambitious” progress in their education. This overturns the previous standard set by the US Court of Appeals which stated schools must provide students with disabilities an educational opportunity that is “merely more than de minimis.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling affects the approximately 6,400,000 American students with disabilities. Until now, roughly 300,000 have left school every year, meaning only 65% of students with disabilities graduate high school.
The court case is the result of the Douglas County School District in Colorado developing a minimal educational plan for an autistic student named Endrew which “simply replicated goals from years past.” Endrew’s parents removed him from the public school and sent him to a private school where Endrew was able to make “academic and social progress.” They then sought tuition reimbursement from the state, arguing Endrew had been denied the “free appropriate public education” required by federal law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The Supreme Court agreed. As Chief Justice John G. Roberts put it, “A student offered an education program providing a ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all… For children with disabilities, receiving an instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out.’”