The Scope of the IDEA Statute: Gregory Rolen Authors California Lawyer Article

The Supreme Court is currently confronting the issue of public education – specifically, the mandate expressed in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) that all students receive a “free and appropriate public education.” The Supreme Court will ultimately decide the scope of the “free and appropriate public education” mandate and whether the IDEA requires public schools maximize the potential of children with disabilities or simply provide them and their families with something more than a de minimis educational opportunity.

Partner Gregory Rolen authored the California Lawyer article “The Scope of the IDEA Statute,” discussing the special-education conundrum facing the Supreme Court. The IDEA ensures that “all students with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs.” A student’s FAPE must be “tailored to the unique needs of the handicapped child by means of an individualized educational program, also known as the IEP.”

“In a previous decision, the Court held that a FAPE provides a ‘basic floor of opportunity’ that levels the playing field. Id. at 215. After that ruling, many federal courts used the analogy that students have the right to a ‘serviceable Chevrolet’ not a ‘Cadillac’ when it comes to services,” wrote Rolen. “Although General Motors wins either way under this analytical framework, the case law has left special-education practitioners struggling to define the substantive level of service required.”

He adds, “Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision on the scope of the IDEA, it appears likely that parents, educators, lawyers, and experts will continue the semantic debate over what is the best approach for educating disabled students. One reality, however difficult it may be in the real world of public education, is that an all-inclusive, ever-elusive, bright-line test will remain out of reach.”

Read the full article.

February 7, 2017