Professor Kanter, College of Law Students and Staff Contribute to SCOTUS Amicus Brief in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District

Posted on Thursday 1/5/2017

Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence Arlene Kanter together with her research assistants, Alyssa Galea and Megan Brooks, students from her Fall 2016 Disability Law class Cintia Garcia and Alexandra Caraballo, and the Law Library’s Assistant Director of Student Learning, Christine Demetros contributed to an amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court of the United States case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Faculty from Syracuse University School of Education, Assistant Professor Julia White and Assistant Research Professor Beth Meyers also contributed.

The amicus brief was filed by the National Disability Rights Network and 44 other disability rights organizations throughout the country. The Endrew case is the first case since the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, in which the Court will address the substantive content of a State’s obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) to ensure a “free appropriate public education” for students with disabilities. 

The College of Law team provided background research on the legislative history of the IDEIA, showing the changes in Congress’ view of people with disabilities since the Rowley decision. These amendments to the IDEIA appear to strengthen the obligation of school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities that is more in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s commitment to “assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency” for all disabled people. The brief filed by the amici rejects the view that schools can satisfy the requirement for an “appropriate education” by providing a merely more than “de minimis’” educational benefit to the student, as the Rowley Court held.  As the amici brief states, “[b]cause education prepares children for future adult roles, educational expectations for disabled children now anticipate higher education, employment, and independent living, rather than a life of dependence and institutionalization.”

If the Supreme Court rules for the school district or evenly splits its decision on this case, the Tenth Circuit decision will stand in favor of the school district. If, however, the Court sides with the parents and the amici, school administrators across the country will be put on notice that an “appropriate education” means one which provides children with disabilities an equal opportunity to meet the educational standards the district applies to all children, including instruction and supports that will prepare the child for success in college and careers.  

The arguments in the case is scheduled for January 11. A decision is expected by the end of the Courts’ term in June.