62 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 38: 1 2018]
Department of Education’s expertise in articulating a standard.165 Instead, the Department left the
issue of interpretation to be decided by the Court.166 Chief Justice Roberts discussed that
presenting numerous adjectives to the Court when asking the Court to undertake judicial review
does not make it clear to the Court as to what it should adopt.167 Justice Alito reiterated that the
frustration of this case was the “blizzard of words” that had been thrown at the Court.168 The Court
continuously focused on facts specific to the Endrew case, possibly eluding to the notion that the
test courts use in IDEA cases should be fact-specific and narrowly tailored.169 The only thing that
was clear was that the Justices all seemed to be unhappy with the “more than merely de minimis”
standard.170 If the Court’s preference is to case-specific holdings in IDEA cases, then resolving
the circuit split will not fix the problem.
On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court released their decision in Endrew.171
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court gave little clarity to the question of what level of educational
benefit a child must receive under his or her IEP to satisfy the requirements of the Individuals
with Disabilities in Education Act.172 In a unanimous decision, the Court held that, to meet its
substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must “offer an [individualized education
program] reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the
child's circumstances.”173 The Court simply reaffirmed the holding in Rowley.174 There was a
slight silver-lining, though, because the Court unanimously rejected the de minimus standard,175
and instead held that schools need to provide more than a trivial benefit.176 Parents saw this
decision as expanding the reach of special needs education, while critics say it does little to
change the status quo because the vast majority of schools are already in compliance with the
“more than de minimus” standard. 177 The rejection of the de minimus standard did make a
difference in this specific case.178 On remand, the district court ruled that the school district has
to pay for the private schooling of special needs children in Colorado.179 Also, of note, our
165 Id. at 22.
166 Transcript, supra note 5, at 22.
167 Id. at 26; see also Howe, supra note 137.
168 Id. at 47 (discussing that significant and meaningful are synonyms).
169 Id. at 6–7 (Chief Justice Roberts illustrating how one standard doesn’t work for every type of disabled child); see
also id. at 10 (Justice Ginsburg discussing the $70,000 the district has already spent on this one child).
170 Howe, supra note 137; see also Kimberly Robinson, SCOTUS Struggles with Duty Owed to Disabled Students,
BLOOMBERG L. (Jan. 12, 2017), https://www.bna.com/scotus-struggles-duty-n73014449718/.
171 Endrew F., 798 F.3d at 988.
172 See id.
173 Amy Howe, Opinion Analysis: Court’s Decision Rejecting Low Bar for Students with Disabilities, Under the
Spotlight, SCOTUS BLOG (Mar. 23, 2017), http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/endrew-f-v-douglas-county-school-district/.
174 Rowley, 458 U.S. at 206–07.
175 Howe, supra note 142.
177 Laura Mckenna, How Supreme Court Ruling Will Affect Special Education, THE ATLANTIC (Mar. 23, 2017),
178 T. Thomas Metier, The District Court Says a School District Must Pay for the Private Schooling of a Special Needs
Child in Colorado After US Supreme Court Ruling, LEGAL EXAM’R (Feb. 28, 2018),