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Supreme Court to Decide What Level of Education Public Schools Should Give to Disabled Students

apple on books with pencils and empty blackboard - back to schoolThe U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments on Wednesday, January 11 regarding the level of education that U.S. public schools should provide to students with disabilities. Reports have called this particular case one of the most significant special-education issues to reach the Supreme Court in almost 30 years.

The most prominent question being addressed is whether public schools owe students with disabilities “some” educational benefits — which other courts have defined as “just-above-trivial” progress — or a substantial, “meaningful” contribution to their lives.

The issue made its way to the high court because lower courts were divided, meaning that students with disabilities may receive varying educational benefits on a state-by-state basis. Now, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to decide if and how a uniform standard could be applied at a national level.

According to the Sumner Institute of Linguistics, approximately two-thirds of children around the world are bilingual. The nation still has a long way to go before bilingual education is perfect, and the same can be said about the country’s treatment of the 6.7 million school-age children with disabilities.

Current federal laws state that these children have the right to “free appropriate education,” but the question of what constitutes that level of education has plagued the minds of many parents, teachers, and school officials.

The heart of the dispute goes beyond benefiting those children with disabilities, though. Rather, it’s becoming more frequently associated with the cost for both parents and school districts. Private school programs are expensive, and if a parent pulls their child from public school with significant evidence that the educational program didn’t adhere to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school may be responsible for footing a private tuition bill.

IDEA outlines the steps that individual states must perform in return for federal special-education funds. The law requires that schools do more than just “open the door” for students with disabilities. This means that every child will have the same opportunities to develop skills that can lead to an independent lifestyle and participation in society.

Many special-education advocates have made the case that this shouldn’t be an issue. “I can’t even believe that this is really a question for the court to wrestle with,” said Gary Mayerson, a civil rights lawyer and board member of Autism Speaks.The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments on Wednesday, January 11 regarding the level of education that U.S. public schools should provide to students with disabilities. Reports have called this particular case one of the most significant special-education issues to reach the Supreme Court in almost 30 years.

The most prominent question being addressed is whether public schools owe students with disabilities “some” educational benefits — which other courts have defined as “just-above-trivial” progress — or a substantial, “meaningful” contribution to their lives.

The issue made its way to the high court because lower courts were divided, meaning that students with disabilities may receive varying educational benefits on a state-by-state basis. Now, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to decide if and how a uniform standard could be applied at a national level.

According to the Sumner Institute of Linguistics, approximately two-thirds of children around the world are bilingual. The nation still has a long way to go before bilingual education is perfect, and the same can be said about the country’s treatment of the 6.7 million school-age children with disabilities.

Current federal laws state that these children have the right to “free appropriate education,” but the question of what constitutes that level of education has plagued the minds of many parents, teachers, and school officials.

The heart of the dispute goes beyond benefiting those children with disabilities, though. Rather, it’s becoming more frequently associated with the cost for both parents and school districts. Private school programs are expensive, and if a parent pulls their child from public school with significant evidence that the educational program didn’t adhere to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school may be responsible for footing a private tuition bill.

IDEA outlines the steps that individual states must perform in return for federal special-education funds. The law requires that schools do more than just “open the door” for students with disabilities. This means that every child will have the same opportunities to develop skills that can lead to an independent lifestyle and participation in society.

Many special-education advocates have made the case that this shouldn’t be an issue. “I can’t even believe that this is really a question for the court to wrestle with,” said Gary Mayerson, a civil rights lawyer and board member of Autism Speaks.

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