SCOTUS Decision in Favor of Special Education Student a Victory for GT Pro Bono Clients

WASHINGTON – MARCH 23, 2017 – In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the 10th Circuit ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (“Endrew F.”), a victory for Greenberg Traurig pro bono clients Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and the California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy, on whose behalf Greenberg Traurig submitted an amicus curiae brief. The decision, written by Chief Justice Roberts, will positively affect students with disabilities and their families across the United States.

The March 22 decision determines the level of public educational benefits that students with disabilities are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Court stated, “To meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances… A child’s IEP need not aim for grade-level advancement if that is not a reasonable prospect. But that child’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.”

Caroline J. Heller, litigation shareholder and chair of Greenberg Traurig LLP’sGlobal Pro Bono Program, previously submitted an amicus brief, filed Nov. 21. The amici had an interest in the Endrew F. matter because their organizations work to ensure that children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, emphasizing special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.

“The Supreme Court's unanimous decision in this case is a significant win for children with disabilities and their families,” Heller said. “The Supreme Court’s recognition that ‘every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives’ affirms the guarantee of the IDEA that all children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education designed to meet their unique needs. In other words, all children, regardless of ability, are entitled to an education that will allow them to become productive members of our society.”

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