Saturday, April 01, 2017

16.1 - Good News: victory on disability rights

Good News: victory on disability rights

Starting the week, as we always like to do, with some Good News, this time it arises out of a place that has not been and I fear for some time to come will not be the source of much Good News: the Supreme Court.

The case involves a family outside Denver with a child with a learning disability. He attended public school from kindergarten through fourth grade, during which time he was given specialized instruction to deal with his learning and behavioral issues.

His parents then placed him in a private academy that specialized in autism because they were frustrated with his lack of progress. There, his behavior and learning improved markedly.

The parents then sued the school for reimbursement for the cost of the specialized education, charging that the school had not met its obligations under the law for a "free appropriate public education" for children with disabilities.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said no, finding that the school must offer "merely more than de minimus" to meet its obligations - that is, it is only required to offer something beyond the absolute minimum.

The Good News is that on March 22, a unanimous Supreme Court said that's not good enough, that children with disabilities have a right to an "educational program that is reasonably calculated to enable [them] to make progress" and one which "must be appropriately ambitious in light of" the child's capabilities.

To do otherwise, to be satisfied with with "merely more than de minimus" as a standard, to aim so low, would, the Court said, "be tantamount to sitting idly awaiting the time" when students with disabilities "were old enough to drop out."

On response, some people claimed it would cost too much. If we can find an extra $54 billion to kill people, we can find a fraction of that to help people learn.

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