Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Endrew F. v Douglas County School District RE-1 (“Endrew F.”).  The central issue in Endrew F. was the degree of educational benefit that must be provided to a student with a disability in order for a district to comply with its obligation to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under the IDEA.  The last time the Court issued a decision relative to what it means to receive a FAPE under the IDEA was in its 1982 decision in Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v Rowley (“Rowley”). 

In Rowley, the Court made clear that the IDEA does not require districts to provide students with disabilities the best education possible in order to meet its FAPE obligation.   Rather, the Court held that a district has met its obligation to provide FAPE to a student if it can demonstrate that, in creating the student’s IEP, it complied with the procedural requirements of the IDEA and the IEP is “reasonably calculated” to provide the student educational benefit. 

Endrew F. is a case from the 10th Circuit.  Interpreting Rowley, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district meets it obligation to provide FAPE if the student’s IEP provides more than a de minimis benefit or some benefit to the student.  The Parents in Endrew F. argued that this standard was inconsistent with the IDEA and the standard of FAPE previously articulated by the Supreme Court in Rowley.  The Parents argued that the IDEA and Rowley requires districts to provide students with disabilities educational opportunities that are substantially equal to the opportunities provided to non-disabled students in order to meet their obligation to provide FAPE.

The Endrew F. Court unanimously rejected the 10th Circuit’s interpretation of the FAPE standard holding that the IDEA and its previous decision in Rowley demands more.  The Court also unanimously rejected the Parents’ interpretation of the FAPE standard. 

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the circuit that Michigan is part of, adopted a more robust standard of FAPE than what was applied in the 10th Circuit.  Because the standard that has been applied here in Michigan is much higher than the standard the Court in Endrew F. rejected, the Endrew F. decision should not change how districts in Michigan interpret FAPE.

A copy of the Decision is provided below. 

 

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