Today, December 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education released a Question and Answer (Q&A) on the U. S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. In that case, the Court interpreted the scope of the free appropriate public education (FAPE) requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Court overturned the Tenth Circuit’s decision that Endrew, a child with autism, was only entitled to an educational program that was calculated to provide “merely more than de minimis” educational benefit. In rejecting the Tenth Circuit’s reasoning, the Supreme Court determined that, “to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP [individualized education program] that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” The Court additionally emphasized the requirement that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”
The nine-page Q&A provides important answers to help parents, teachers, and school leaders understand the case and how it might impact students with autism and other disabilities. In three sections, the primer provides the background and facts about the case, the history of IDEA’s Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) requirements and the previous Rowley standard; clarifies how the decision defines the responsibility of schools; and, finally, offers guidance to parents, teachers, and school districts on how to implement the new expectations. Importantly, the Q&A clarifies undefined terms used in the case, such as “reasonably calculated,” and tries to define what “progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” means.
Because the decision in Endrew F. clarified the scope of the IDEA’s FAPE requirements, the Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is interested in receiving comments from families, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders to assist us in identifying implementation questions and best practices. The Department provides the following special email address for those interested in commenting on this document or who have additional questions: EndrewF@ed.gov.