The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a critical piece of civil rights legislation that details the rights of a child with a disability to a “free, appropriate, public education” (FAPE) in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE) and provides a mechanism for due process if a violation of these rights has taken place.

As part of FAPE, the child is entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with the special education and related services that are necessary to enable the child to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum and to meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. The IEP also determines the educational setting of the child. The LRE provisions of IDEA require the child to be educated in regular education classes in the school where he or she would have gone if not for the disability (usually the school closest to home), unless the child cannot be educated satisfactorily in that setting even with supplementary aids and services to provide the support that may be needed.

IDEA History and Reauthorization

IDEA was enacted in 1975 and has been revised many times. Congress passed the most recent amendments in December 2004. Final regulations for school-aged children (Part B) were published in August 2006 and final regulations for infants and toddlers (Part C) were published in September 2011.

IDEA will be up for reauthorization in the near future. NDSS will collaborate with other disability groups to ensure that any changes made are in the best interest of individuals with disabilities and their families.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is a case from Colorado before the US Supreme Court focusing on what level of educational benefit is legally required under IDEA. The case involves a family of a boy with autism who sought reimbursement from the Douglas County School District for private school following a dispute over their son’s 5th grade IEP. The US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that the family was not eligible for private school reimbursement because the child’s IEP had provided him with “some educational benefit”. However, other courts have adopted a higher standard of “meaningful educational benefit”. This case seeks to settle the different federal court interpretations regarding the level of educational benefit that a school must provide to meet the requirements of providing a free, appropriate public education under IDEA.

NDSS supports the court decisions that have held school districts to a higher standard regarding the level of educational benefit that must be provided, and has signed on to this amicus curiae brief in support of the Endrew family and their son.