A recent U.S. Supreme Court case that was meant to be a watershed moment for the Down syndrome community and all students with disabilities, has quickly turned into yet another way to try and segregate our children.
The Endrew F. can be compared to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling for African American students. In Endrew F., The Supreme Court unanimously ruled schools must be held to a “markedly more demanding” standard when educating students with disabilities. But school boards are using the high court case to make an argument for continued segregation of students with the most significant disabilities.
Read Related Post Here: Realizing the Promise of the Endrew Supreme Court Case
It’s been 10 months since the Supreme Court created a new standard that requires special education students to meet academic standards and advance grade to grade. In that short time two cases revolving around the segregation of students with Down syndrome have put in question the promise of Endrew F.
As these two cases advance to the Ninth and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the question will be: How will the courts interpret Endrew F. for students with intellectual disabilities? Can these students only receive “more meaningful benefit” in a self-contained class?
Read Related Post Here: 7 Research Studies You Can Use at Your Child’s Next IEP Meeting to Win the Fight for Inclusion
If you’ve read this blog before, or have any knowledge of inclusion for students with Down syndrome, you know there’s NO research that shows more academic benefit for students with the most significant disabilities in self-contained classrooms. In fact, every research study done since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act first became law in 1975, shows the regular classroom with proper supports provides all students with the best outcomes.
In both of the current cases at the federal appellate court level, R.M. v. Gilbert Unified School District and L.H. v. Hamilton County Department of Education, the parents and their supporters (COPAA, NDSC, NDSS, and other disability rights organizations) argue the boys with Down syndrome are in fact making progress in the regular classroom. You can read more about the cases below.
Read Related Post Here: L.H. v. Hamilton County Department of Education and R.M. v. Gilbert Unified School District
But the National School Boards Associations filed an amicus brief against the boys, and in favor of the school districts that want to segregate them. The organization that supports more than 90,000 school board members argues “academic benefit is the key factor for a court determining whether a school district has provided services in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).” The organization believes Endrew F. strengthened the importance of the educational benefit factor in LRE determinations. They stressed that school personnel are the experts when deciding if progress has been made and if placement should change, and courts shouldn’t “second guess” this judgement.
Special Education Attorney and Professor, Susan Marks, is troubled by the National School Boards Association interpretation of the ruling. “They are essentially using Endrew F. as justification for trumping the LRE if a school team believes that a student would have greater academic progress in a separate program. Another troubling issue with the National School Board’s reasoning is their assertion that courts should give deference to the school professionals in making such determinations. However, we know that the IDEA gives parents a substantial role in developing their child’s program,” Susan Marks explains.
Special Education Advocates and Attorneys agree if the courts accept this troubling interpretation of Endrew F., parents will find it increasingly more difficult to access an inclusive placement. Still, many are confident the boys with Down syndrome in this case will prevail, because of the evidence that they made meaningful progress in regular education.
What do you think about these cases? Who do you think will prevail and why? Why are we still fighting for inclusion of students with the most significant disabilities? Tell me what you think below.