The U.S. Supreme Court Makes New Ruling on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum explains. #AskHoward

VIDEO DESC & TRANSCRIPT: Howard A. Rosenblum is sitting at his desk. The NAD logo appears on bottom right corner as a watermark.

HOWARD: Hello, for this month’s Ask Howard Anything (AHA), we want to discuss the March 22, 2017 decision by the Supreme Court in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County. This is a very important legal opinion that affects a federal law — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law requires every school district in the country to provide a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities and deaf and hard of hearing children. Passed in 1975, the IDEA has been in effect but many school districts have struggled with how to apply the law to teach children with disabilities, especially to figure out the level of services to provide. Most schools for the deaf had been around for many years before the IDEA and knew what they needed to provide quality education to the deaf and hard of hearing students. However, as the IDEA began in 1975, many school districts were unsure how to educate mainstreamed deaf students. Around that time, the Rowleys, who are deaf parents, lived in New York and decided to mainstream their young daughter, Amy. They enrolled her in the local school district program for Kindergarten and first grade, which went well for Amy, but the parents asked for interpreters to ensure Amy received the information needed to learn. The school district refused to provide any interpreters, and the family had to file a complaint against the school district. The case went through a hearing which the parents lost, then the parents won on appeal at the federal District Court, and won again at the federal Appellate Court, and then the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. This was the first ever case about the IDEA to be decided by the Supreme Court, and this was in 1982. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and the language of the IDEA, and examined the requirements of the law including “individualized education program (IEP)” and “free and appropriate public education.” The Rowleys claimed that Amy needed interpreters to benefit from her education, and the school district claimed that Amy was benefitting from her education without any interpreters. The Supreme Court decided that the IDEA only required school districts to develop for each student with a disability an IEP that is “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits” and there is no mandate for them to do more than that. After this Rowley Supreme Court decision in 1982, school districts all over the country still struggled to determine the level of educational services to give to each student with disabilities and deaf and hard of hearing students. Teachers, administrators, parents, lawyers, and courts had many different opinions on what the IDEA required from school districts. Some argued for more educational services to ensure students had equal access to services while others argued that schools only had to give a minimum level of services. These differences of opinions about the mandate of IDEA led to the new Supreme Court decision in 2017. This decision, which all eight Justices unanimously supported, involved the case of Endrew who is autistic and has ADHD. His parents had placed him in a school district for educational services but noticed after some years that he was not making progress. His parents asked the school district to change the IEP so that Endrew could get more services and improve his education. The school district chose to keep the same IEP. The parents decided to move Endrew to a private school, and this change improved Endrew’s educational progress. The parents asked the school district to cover the private school costs, and the school district refused so the parents sued. The case went to a hearing, and then appealed but lost at both the federal District Court and the federal Appellate Court. The parents appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the school district had failed to provide an IEP to Endrew that was reasonably calculated to enable him to receive educational benefits. The school district claimed it was providing an adequate IEP for Endrew. The Supreme Court reviewed this and determined that the District Court and Appellate Court applied the wrong standard, and explained that schools must provide “an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” and give every child “the chance to meet challenging objectives.” With this important clarification in the IDEA standards, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the District Court to apply the law correctly with Endrew’s IEP and decide whether to rule in favor of Endrew’s family or the school district. The most important part of the Supreme Court decision on March 22, 2017 is that it clarified and strengthened the IEP standard for all students with disabilities. This clarification will benefit deaf and hard of hearing students across the country, and will aid the NAD in our advocacy to improve deaf education. The NAD will not only use this Supreme Court decision but will also continue to work with CEASD and other organizations to advocate for legislative changes to the IDEA through the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. This bill seeks to make some changes that will enhance the communication factors analysis to ensure better IEPs for deaf and hard of hearing students. With the combination of the Endrew F. Supreme Court decision and the legislative advocacy efforts, we look forward to a better future for all deaf and hard of hearing children. Thank you.

Video fades to a soft white background with several different font types showing “NAD” very quickly. Copyright video ends with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) logo centered. Blue text below the logo appears, “A production of the National Association of the Deaf (copyright) 2017 All Rights Reserved”.