Supreme Court rules in favor of MCPS in Special Education case

Nov. 15, 2005, midnight | By Abe Schwadron | 16 years, 2 months ago

IEP policy is upheld, burden of proof remains with parents

This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from The Washington Post article "In Special-Ed Case, Court Backs Montgomery Schools" by Charles Lane and Lori Aratani. Silver Chips Online posts these news summaries to provide readers with a forum for discussion.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of MCPS yesterday, Nov. 14, in a case involving the administration of special education plans in schools, according to The Washington Post. The decision maintains the legal system's practice of putting the burden on parents of special education students to prove that their child's plan is inadequate.

The case, "Schaffer v. Weast," concerned the dispute over the adequacy and implementation of Individual Education Programs (IEPs). The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide IEPs in order to aid and enhance the learning of students with disabilities.

Jocelyn Schaffer, mother of a special education student enrolled in an MCPS school, was unsatisfied with her son's IEP, and therefore sued the county for private school tuition. The 6 to 2 decision by the Supreme Court means parents of special education students will continue to be saddled with the responsibility of proving that individualized IEPs are insufficient to the child's needs.

According to The Post, the Schaffer's contended that school systems were better equipped to determine the efficiency of special education plans because of their additional resources and information on the student's successes. Conversely, MCPS argued that parents hoping to alter their child's IEP should have to prove the inadequacy of their child's plan. MCPS was also concerned that a new procedure for challenging IEPs could cost the school system millions of dollars in lawsuits.

In addition to guaranteeing students adequate resources for education, IDEA gives families of students with disabilities the right to a formal hearing to determine if the plan the school has provided is adequate.

The monumental case drew attention from disability rights organizations and educators nationwide. Currently, roughly 13.4 percent of public school students receive special education under IDEA.

In MCPS schools alone, more than 17,000 students have IEPs, and the county spends more than 300 million dollars per year on special education services. MCPS is the nation's 17th largest public school system, according to The Post.

If the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the Schaffers, a decisive advantage would be given to parents nationwide, making it easier to file and win cases involving the altering of IEPs.

Abe Schwadron. Abe is a huge basketball, baseball, and football fan that likes to read up on sports in SLAM, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN magazines. Hobbies include streetball, poker and film-making. A sneaker addict, Abe likes to keep his kicks fresh. Abe likes reggae and hip-hop music, … More »

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