Supreme Court to Decide which Level of Educational Benefit is Required by the IDEA

December 29, 2016


The Supreme Court of the United States is set to hear oral argument in a case concerning what level of educational benefit a school district must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with the free appropriate public education (FAPE) guaranteed them by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 


Federal courts in the United States are divided into twelve geographic circuits. California is in the Ninth Circuit. In the Ninth Circuit, the court has determined that under the IDEA, a child is entitled to meaningful educational benefit. This is a minority position in the United States and more demanding than in many of the other federal court circuits. 


The case now before the Supreme Court comes on appeal from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a lower standard than the Ninth Circuit, requiring that school districts only provide some educational benefit under the IDEA.  


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 11th to consider which of the varying standards that different district courts have created regarding educational benefit is the correct standard by which to measure whether a school district has provided a child with a FAPE.  


During oral argument, attorneys will have an opportunity to make a presentation to the Court and answer questions posed by the Justices. Prior to the argument, the attorneys have submitted a brief, which is a written legal argument, and the Justices will have read the briefs and will be familiar with the case, its facts, and the legal positions the attorneys are advocating. After the arguments are made, you may hear the oral arguments here.


Martha Millar

Special Education Attorney






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