Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1, 580 U.S. ___ (2017), was a United States Supreme Court case that held that, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"),[1] schools must provide students an education that is "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances."[2] In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court vacated the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and held that the proper standard under the IDEA "is markedly more demanding than the 'merely more than de minimis' test applied by the Tenth Circuit."[3]

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued January 11, 2017
Decided March 22, 2017
Full case nameEndrew F., a minor, by and through his parents and next friends, Joseph F. et al. v. Douglas County School District RE-1
Docket no.15–827
Citations580 U.S. ___ (more)
137 S. Ct. 988; 197 L. Ed. 2d 335
Case history
  • Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1, 798 F.3d 1329 (10th Cir. 2015)
  • Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1, No. 12-CV-02620-LTB (D. Colo. Sep. 15, 2014)
ProceduralOn Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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. United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit vacated and remanded.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Anthony Kennedy · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Samuel Alito · Sonia Sotomayor
Elena Kagan
Case opinion
MajorityRoberts, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is a Supreme Court case about "the level of educational benefit school districts must provide students with disabilities as defined by IDEA.[4] On January 10, 2017, Supreme Court Judges began hearing the case which is described by advocates as "the most significant special-education issue to reach the high court in three decades."[5] On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of students with disabilities saying that meaningful, "appropriately ambitious" progress goes further than what the lower courts had held.[6]

Case backgroundEdit

In 2010, Endrew, who was in Grade 5 at the time at Summit View Elementary school in Douglas County School District RE-1 in Colorado, began to exhibit "severe behavioral issues." The parents removed their child from Summit View and enrolled him in a specialized school for children with autism, Firefly Autism in Denver, with an annual tuition of $70,000.[7] The family requested reimbursement for the Firefly tuition claiming the Douglas County School District had not fulfilled the requirements of IDEA. On May 15, 2016, they lost their case before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado with circuit judges Harris Hartz, Timothy Tymkovich, and Gregory A. Phillips presiding.[7] Their argument was that "the federal statute only requires that schools provide students with "some educational benefit.""[8] In an amicus brief submitted by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Supreme Court was urged to take the case stating that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals " had set the bar — a standard of "merely … more than de minimis" educational benefit — too low."[8]

Thus, for over 30 years, this Court has held that if a State provides a program 'reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits,' then it 'has complied with the obligations imposed by Congress and the courts can require no more...No parent or educator in America would say that a child has received an 'appropriate' or a 'specially suitable' or 'proper' education 'in the circumstances' when all the child has received are benefits that are barely more than trivial."

— Amicus brief Office of the Solicitor General August 18, 2016

Supreme Court takes the caseEdit

In September 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear the "potentially groundbreaking case" brought by a "Douglas County couple who claim that their autistic son was not provided an adequate education in the public school system as required by federal law."[8] Access to public education through IDEA was affirmed in 1982 in Board of Education v. Rowley, but the quality of guaranteed education for students with disabilities under IDEA had not been addressed.[8] This Supreme Court case has the potential to "affect the education of 6.7 million children with disabilities" as the Court "struggles "to decide whether it should require public schools to do more under a federal law that calls for them to provide a free education that addresses the children's needs."[9] In the Solicitor General's Amicus brief, the Supreme Court was advised that "Resolving the conflict among the circuits will ensure that millions of children with disabilities receive a consistent level of education, while providing parents and educators much-needed guidance regarding their rights and obligations."[10]

On November 21, 2016, 118 lawmakers filed a bicameral amicus brief supporting the rights of students with disabilities to receive a "meaningful" public education.[4][11] Since August 2016, National Education Association (NEA), the United States' largest trade union,[12] former officials of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Education Association, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, and others have "submitted amicus briefs in support of the child."[10]

Supreme court argumentEdit

Supreme Court Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Anthony M. Kennedy expressed concerns about the implications of implementing IDEA with changes in quality of education standards. Breyer cautioned about potential rising costs of litigation, for example, extraneous lawsuits.[9] Kennedy questioned the financial cost to districts with severely disabled students; Alito considered the burden on poorer school districts.[9]

Not all of the eleven circuit courts have considered the issue of standards and in those that have, only two set "meaningful educational benefit" standard.[13] The Supreme Court will decide whether a uniform standard should apply nationally.[5] Alito expressed frustration with the "blizzard of words" produced in the last thirty years of appeals courts hearings which offered different views on standards.[9]

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Board of Education v. Rowley (1982) 458 U.S. 176 (1982) in which the Court held that public schools were "not required by law to provide sign language interpreters to deaf students who are otherwise receiving an equal and adequate education."

The lawyer for the parents, Jeffrey L. Fisher, claimed that schools should provide "substantially equal educational opportunities" and in most cases, the costs involve "things like providing Braille textbooks, providing an iPad, providing some specialized instruction by a staff member who's already on staff...[T]here are going to be some extreme cases....[IDEA] does not permit cost to trump what the act otherwise requires. Schools should provide "a level of educational services designed to allow the child to progress from grade to grade in the general curriculum."[9]

See alsoEdit


The citations in this article are written in Bluebook style. Please see the talk page for more information.

  1. ^ 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.
  2. ^ Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1, No. 15-827, 580 U.S. ___ (2017), slip. op. at 11.
  3. ^ Endrew F., slip op. at 14, 16.
  4. ^ a b SCOTUS: Led by Sen. Murray & Rep. Scott, 118 Lawmakers File Bicameral Amicus Brief to Safeguard Rights of Students With Disabilities to Receive Meaningful Public Education, November 21, 2016, retrieved January 12, 2017
  5. ^ a b Emma Brown (January 10, 2017), Supreme Court to decide: What level of education do public schools legally owe to students with disabilities?, Washington, DC: Washington Post, retrieved January 12, 2017
  6. ^ The Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of A Special Education Student NPR News, Retrieved March 24, 2017
  7. ^ a b "Endrew F., a minor, by and through his parents and next friends, Joseph F., and Jennifer F., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. No. 14-1417 Douglas County School District RE-1" (PDF), United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, May 15, 2016, retrieved January 12, 2017
  8. ^ a b c d John Aguilar (September 29, 2016), U.S. Supreme Court will hear Douglas County student with disabilities case: Origins of potentially landmark case stretch back to 2010, Denver Post, retrieved January 12, 2017
  9. ^ a b c d e Adam Liptak (January 11, 2017), Justices Face 'Blizzard of Words' in Special Education Case, Washington, DC, retrieved January 12, 2017
  10. ^ a b "Educational Benefit: "Merely More Than De Minimis" or "Meaningful"? Supreme Court Revisits Requirements in Endrew F. v. Douglas Co. Sch. Dist. RE-1. Peter Wright and Pamela Wright". Wrightslaw.com. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  11. ^ "Amicus Brief in support of petitioner" (PDF), 118 Members of Congress, November 15, 2016, retrieved January 12, 2017
  12. ^ Layton, Lyndsey (March 25, 2014). "Nation's largest labor union: We want 2016 hopefuls talking about schools". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  13. ^ Carolyn Phenicie (January 10, 2017), "Special education at the Supreme Court: 7 things to know about Wednesday's Endrew F. case", LA School Report, retrieved January 12, 2017

External linksEdit