US Supreme Court Set to Hear Autism Case

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Parents of children with disabilities all over United States are anxiously awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court. The decision may have an impact on 6 million children who have disabilities and may end up costing local school districts a lot of money. Even parents with children in private autism schools are watching the Supreme Court.

Disabilities Scoop is reporting on the case brought by a Colorado family against the local school district. While it is true that Federal law prohibits giving children with disabilities an inferior education, what that means is unclear. This ambiguity has led two wide variances, from state to state, in the quality of education the children with disabilities receive..

At its heart, this case is looking at the development of a national standard for special needs education. Some school administrators are concerned that should a national standard for children with disabilities be set, more parents will demand more services that are similar to the programs that are offered at most private autism schools, for example. Moreover, administration officials worry that school districts we’ll be forced pay for private schools for special needs children.

John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College and the author of “The Politics of Autism,” said, “Disabled people and their families say kids are not getting the help they need.”

“School districts want to provide services. But they have limited resources and they’re afraid that this case will trigger trade-offs that they won’t like, that money they spend on this is not going to be available for other purposes.”

The Supreme Court case in question was named for a 17-year-old high school student, who is called Endrew F. this case is basically about what kinds of services and education children with disabilities are entitled to. Colorado’s 10th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals found that Schools do need to provide programs with, “some educational benefit” to children with disabilities. This decision mirrors other decisions by appellate courts in Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

Current federal law covers children with 13 different mental, physical, behavioral and emotional disabilities. These include learning disabilities and Autism, which which make up the vast majority of disability cases. Some worry that local school districts we’ll be forced to pay for education at private Autism schools.

“They should be investing whatever funds necessary to produce students who graduate to something that’s meaningful for them, greater independence and greater self-sufficiency. They’ll spend way less later on,” said Gary Mayerson, a board member of Autism Speaks and layer. He has pointed out Autism diagnoses are on the rise.

The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Act was enacted to make sure the children with disabilities would have access to a good education but the law itself did not set down standards for what constitutes a quality education. After hearing a case of a hearing impaired student court ruled that the law was, “More to open the door of public education to handicapped children than to guarantee any particular substantive level of education once inside.”

The case before the court today involves a high school student whose parents removed him from public school because he wasn’t getting the education he needed. They were asking the school district pay for his education at one of the private Autism schools in the area. The school district is arguing that the education they provide is sufficient and meet the federal guidelines. They argue that any changes made to the guidelines need to come from Congress, not the courts.

The results in this case can have implications for parents across the country. As parents looked to this decision and wonder about its implications for schools for students with learning disabilities and special education programs that are currently implemented within the school districts, the anxiety level is high.

Pitney said, “It’s a painful case. If Endrew F. loses, a lot of parents and kids aren’t going to be getting services they need. And if he wins, there’s going to be a pretty serious financial and administrative burden on school districts.”

No matter what happens with this Supreme Court case, it is clear that we need to reevaluate how we educate children with disabilities. The problem is that people cannot decide what the best answer is.