While not widely talked about across the country, numerous legal advisors and lawyers in the United States are closely following the case of Endrew F. v Douglas. In the beginning of January 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case and is currently reviewing information. The final verdict is expected in the summer of 2017. The wonder of this case is that it has the ability to affect nearly all special education children around the country at some point in their lives. At the heart of this case is the matter of what a free appropriate public education is.
For years, the U.S. government guaranteed a free public education to all children, including to special needs children. Original Supreme Court rulings on special education came in 1975 with the Individuals with Disabilities Act and later in 1982 with the Board of Education v Rowley. With IDEA came the term “free appropriate public education,” which was to be guaranteed to all special needs children. The 1982 case attempted to clarify this terminology. With the expected 2017 ruling, further clarification of free and appropriate is expected.
In the current case, Endrew’s parents sent their child to a private school when they felt that he was not receiving an appropriate education for his autistic needs in public school. However, because the school district said that they were providing some applicable education, they denied any financial reimbursement for the private schooling. Lawyers for the family are arguing for a national measurable standard to be instituted in the public school setting to ensure that special needs children do indeed receive an appropriate education.