Supreme Court to weigh in on sensitive education issue

The Supreme Court of the United States announced Thursday that it will decide the minimum actions that public schools must take to help learning-disabled students. The court, which formally starts its new term on October 3rd, has committed to hearing an appeal from the parents of an autistic child in Colorado.

The federal government recommended that Supreme Court justices hear the case to resolve a circuit split and to provide a consistent level of service to students with disabilities attending public schools, who are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990.

The dispute initiated when the Colorado couple moved their son to private school for fifth grade after a very challenging fourth grade year spent in a public school. They requested reimbursement for the cost of the private education, believing that reimbursement was warranted under federal law, which states that learning-disabled children can attend private schools at taxpayer expense if public schools cannot provide what the law refers to as a free, appropriate public education.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, heard the case last year and rejected the reimbursement, stating that the public school the child had previously attended had met its obligations under IDEA in providing the child with an appropriate public education.

This case will present the Supreme Court with the complex task of determining whether school districts receiving federal funding must provide a more substantial and specific educational benefit to a child with an individualized education plan (IEP) than what the law currently delineates.


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