From Rowley to Endrew F.: The Evolution of a Free Appropriate Public Education for Children with Disabilities
21 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 8, 2019
In Board of Education v. Rowley, the Supreme Court ruled that in order to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to students with disabilities, school districts must provide an “educational benefit.” Thirty-five years later, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, the Court revisited Rowley and stated that in order to provide a FAPE , schools must provide an educationa lprogram that is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”Even though Endrew F. articulated a new FAPE standard, the Court emphasized that it did not was not overrule Rowley.
The Court’s adoption of a new FAPE standard combined with its failure to overrule Rowley left several questions about Endrew F.’s impact. Did Endrew F. replace Rowley’s FAPE standard or just restate it? Did Endrew F. set a higher FAPE standard than Rowley? Despite the Supreme Court’s denial, did Endrew F. open the door for courts to construe the IDEA to provide equal educational opportunity for students with disabilities?
This article examines Endrew F.’s impact by tracing the evolution of FAPE standards in the courts and answers all three questions in the affirmative: 1) Endrew F.’s FAPE standard replaced Rowley; 2) it strengthened the FAPE standard in a majority of the circuits; and 3) it left the door open for the courts to construe the IDEA to require equal educational opportunity.
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