IDEAs That Provide a Solution When the Courts Have Disabled the System 63
newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, while presiding for the Tenth Circuit, ruled in 2008
that the IDEA only required educational benefits to “merely be ‘more than de minimus.’”180
IV. THE DIFFERENCE IN THE SPLIT IS FLEETING
Justice Sotomayor said it best during oral arguments of Endrew: “I do think the [IDEA]
provides enough to set a clear standard… [but the problem] is trying to come up with the right
words, which will be less confusing to everyone.”181 Even the attorney for Respondents offered
nine different standards during oral argument.182
One may be inclined to turn to the differences in the definition of the two words. “Some”
means “of a fairly large amount or number.”183 “Some” is also defined as “being of an unspecified
amount or number.”184 “Meaningful” is defined as “having real importance or value.” 185 It also
means “having a meaning or purpose.”186 Regardless, whether one uses “some” or “meaningful,”
these words are not categorical, and thus not easily measured or defined. This is precisely why the
Tenth Circuit calls the difference between the two standards “fleeting.”187
Even within the circuits that have preferred the word “meaningful,” there are great
inconsistences.188 One circuit discusses that the legislative history suggests that Congress intended
for the child to “fully benefit from special education.”189 The same circuit court then counters by
noting that the Supreme Court has made it clear that Congress did not mean optimal benefit.190
Other circuits define “meaningful” as being “sufficient.”191 Yet others define “meaningful” as
providing “some” educational benefits.192 All in all, the courts have made circular arguments and
have avoided offering any clear examples as to what is required to be considered an educational
benefit. Clearly, this ambiguity cannot be settled by simply referring to our dictionaries.
If we look at the statute itself, in addition to defining FAPE, the Act outlines in great detail
what an IEP entails.193 The statute states that an essential part of our national policy is to improve
180 Thompson R2-J Sch. Dist. v. Luke P., ex rel. Jeff P., 540 F. 3d 1143, 1150 (10th Cir. 2008).
181 Howe, supra note 142.
182 Robinson, supra note 170.
183 Some, MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY, merriam-webster.com (last visited Mar. 8, 2017).
185 Meaningful, MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY, merriam-webster.com (last visited Mar. 8, 2017)
187 Endrew F., 798 F.3d at 1340.
188 See Lessard, 518 F.3d at 22; Esposito, 675 F.3d at 34; Ms. S., 829 F.3d at 114 (quoting Esposito, 675 F.3d at 34);
see also Richardson, 580 F.3d at 292.
189 Polk, 853 F.2d at 181.
191 Ramsey, 435 F.3d at 390 (quoting Kingswood Township, 205 F.3d 572, 577 (3d Cir. 2000)).
192 See Lessard, 518 F.3d at 22; see Esposito, 675 F.3d at 34; see Ms. S., 829 F.3d at 114 (quoting Esposito, 675 F.3d
193 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)( 19) (2012) (( 1) “a statement of the present levels of educational performance of such child,
( 2) a statement of annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives, ( 3) a description of how the child's
progress toward meeting the annual goals described in subclause (II) will be measured ( 4) a statement of the specific
educational services to be provided to such child, and the extent to which such child will be able to participate in
regular educational programs, ( 5) an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with
nondisabled children in the regular class ( 6) a statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are