Washington, Jan. 13 – Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a critical case for children with disabilities, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, one of the most important education cases in decades.
In 1975, Congress passed a federal law requiring school districts to provide a “free appropriate public education” for children with disabilities, which includes individualized education plan (IEP) for students to be included in public schools. The law also provided federal funds for these services. The act was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. Unfortunately, IDEA has never been fully funded, leading to some school districts struggling to keep up.
This case, representing a boy with autism named Endrew F. (Drew), argues just how much educational benefit the IEPs must provide. While some lower courts have ruled the need for a “meaningful” educational benefit, others require only a bit more than de minimis – the bare minimum.
Since Drew’s parents felt he was not improving in public school, they sent him to a private school where he progressed at a much quicker pace. Under IDEA, parents can receive tuition reimbursement from the school district if their child does not receive enough “educational benefit” from public schooling. Drew’s parents were denied, leading to this case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the school district was required to provide Drew only with an education that gave him a “benefit” that was “more than de minimis” – and that the school district had done that. The Supreme Court accepted Drew’s parents’ challenge to that decision.
“The school district here is saying, so long as we give barely more than a de minimus benefit, just we teach you a little bit of something, that is enough,” Jeffrey Fisher, a lawyer representing the young boy and his family, argued on behalf of his client’s education. “We think that’s a recipe for second-class citizenship.”
While the district’s legal counsel William E. Trachman declined to talk about the case with the Washington Post, he did provide a statement.
“The District complies with every facet of federal law in making sure that students with special needs are not only provided services, but that educational experts and the student’s parents are maximally involved in the process, and that every Individualized Education Plan is personalized, holistic and ambitious.”
Following this hearing, the Supreme Court will decide on a national standard of education for students with disabilities. During the hearing, they discussed nine different levels of standards.
The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national legal advocacy organization advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities, often advocates for students with disabilities to receive the educational opportunities other students receive.
“We hope that the Supreme Court will issue a decision in Endrew F. that recognizes that an ‘appropriate’ education for students with disabilities is one that reflects the expectations we have for all students,” said Ira Burnim, Legal Director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
In the Supreme Court, the Bazelon Center and the law firm Kellogg Huber Hansen filed a “friend of the court” or “amicus” brief on behalf of six former U.S. Department of Education officials responsible for implementing the IDEA. The brief explains that with advances in special education practice, the great majority of students with disabilities can perform as well in school as other students, and that schools across the country are implementing these practices today to help students with even significant disabilities, like Drew’s, achieve proficiency in math, language arts, science and other subjects. These educational advances, the brief argues, are the foundation for the changes Congress made to the IDEA in 1997 and 2004 to ensure that public schools provide students with disabilities the individualized instruction and supportive services they need to learn and meet the grade level standards to which other students are held.
Only 65 percent of students with disabilities complete high school, which is a key contributor leading to just 1-in-3 Americans with disabilities having a job. This, in turn, leads to high costs of government benefits for those not working, plus the increased risk of falling into the school-to-prison pipeline.
Want more information about this case? The Bazelon Center has a great description as well as a summary of their advocacy work in the case, including links to all the briefs filed in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District available on their website.
Available for media interviews and commentary:
Ira Burnim, Legal Director, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
To set up an interview with Ira Burnim, please contact:
Julie Rosenthal for Bazelon Center: 202-486-3059 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Norma Kelly for Bazelon Center: 818-509-0575 | email@example.com
Washington, Jan. 9 – RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities, thanks Golden Globe lifetime achievement award-winner Meryl Streep for talking about the importance of not making fun of people with disabilities.
“Disrespect invites disrespect; violence incites violence,” the winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award said during her acceptance speech. “And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
RespectAbility, while grateful to Streep for “talking the talk,” challenges her to “walk the walk.”
“Now I hope that Meryl Steep will use her power and influence to ensure that television and movies include people with disabilities with accurate and positive portrayals,” RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “Think about it – according to the U.S. Census, almost 1-in-5 of us has a disability. Yet according to GLAAD, fewer than two percent of scripted television characters have disabilities. For all the hundreds of shows on television, we are talking just 15 characters!”
Disability Training for Police: Lessons from Special Olympics
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics
Patti Saylor, self advocate and mother of Ethan Saylor
Angela Ciccolo, Chief Legal Officer (CLO), Special Olympics
RespectAbility is delighted to present this webinar talking about Special Olympics’s significant work with police on how to interact with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. After the death of Frederick County, Maryland resident Ethan Saylor, an individual with Down syndrome, the Commission was asked to develop recommendations about the types of training standards that Maryland should adopt to educate law enforcement officers who interact with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the best approaches to ensure that people with I/DD are safe, understood and included in the community.
The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in nearly 170 countries.
Free live captioning is provided.
Washington, Jan. 6 – RespectAbility is outraged that a young man with disabilities was kidnapped and a victim of assault by four young adults who live-streamed the torture on Facebook. We are committed to ending violence against people with disabilities of all races, religions, colors, gender identities, sexual orientations, national origins, ages, genetics or political affiliations.
According the Bureau of Justice statistics, people with disabilities are 2.5 times as likely to be victims of violent crime as individuals without disabilities. Furthermore, people with disabilities between the ages of 12-15 and 35-49 are three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
Yet violent acts against people with disabilities often do not receive much public attention. Partially because this vicious attack was broadcast live on Facebook, members of the press and public are paying a great deal of attention. The footage quickly went viral online.
Hate crime charges, among other charges, have been filed against the four assailants.
Fellows wanted in Policy, Communications, Media, Inclusion and Development!
|RespectAbility Fellows standing in front of the White House in Summer 2015|
RespectAbility is searching for a talented professional who is interested in working with young professionals to develop their skills and launch their careers. This person will be an essential part of our team as our Leadership Program Director. In this role, the Director will work directly to support talented young leaders who aspire to careers in policy, communications or media.
The Director will be responsible for recruiting diverse Fellows, providing needed accommodations and overseeing a program of guest speakers and work that will have a national impact to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. If you or someone you know is interested in joining our team, please see the full job description on our website here: National Leadership Program
Our National Leadership Program provides participants with access to high level guest speakers, personalized skills training as well as the chance to work on serious projects that will advance RespectAbility’s mission. Since 2013, 74 different, diverse Fellows have participated in our program. Many have gone on to jobs at the White House, government agencies, think tanks, advocacy organizations, political campaigns, nonprofits and more. Others have pursued advance degrees at Georgetown, Columbia and at other top schools.
RespectAbility is actively recruiting talented young leaders for our Spring, Summer and Fall 2017 cohorts. Fellowships are available in public policy, strategic communications, religious inclusion and nonprofit development. To learn more about our program, please visit our National Leadership Program site.
Donn Weinberg re-elected as chair, ADA co-author Steve Bartlett as Vice Chair, Cal Harris Treasurer and Shelley Cohen Secretary
New members include communications stars Andrew Egan and Calvin Harris, philanthropist Aaron Orlofsky, criminal justice expert Janie L. Jeffers and CEO coach Dr. Dee Soder
Rockville, Md., Dec. 13 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, is proud to announce the election of new officers, as well as new additions to the boards of directors and advisors. Rich in diversity and expertise, the board includes a cross section of national leaders from U.S. Congress, Hollywood, philanthropy, communications and private sector. Moreover, the board of advisors added respected leaders in nonprofit management with deep roots in disability issues.
“We are thrilled to bring such a talented group of leaders with fresh perspective to our boards,” stated Donn Weinberg, Co-Founder and Chair of RespectAbility. “People with disabilities have long been denied entry into the workforce, ultimately depriving 70 percent of working-age Americans a chance to impact our evolving economy. The diverse and bipartisan board we assembled is dedicated to this fight.”
In addition to welcoming five new members to RespectAbility’s boards, Weinberg was re-elected chair for another term. Former Rep. Steve Bartlett was elected Vice President. New board member Calvin Harris was elected Treasurer, and Secretary Shelley Cohen was re-elected to serve another term.
Date: February 21, 2017
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Location: Congressman Brad Sherman‘s Sherman Oaks District Office
5000 Van Nuys Boulevard, Suite 420, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
The facility is ADA accessible. ASL interpreters are available by request.