School Boards call upon Ninth Circuit to affirm IDEA’s educational purpose

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by eight state school boards associations, today filed a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of D.A. v. Meridian Joint Sch. Dist. No. 2.

At issue in this case is whether a high-functioning autistic student with social, behavioral, and self-sufficiency needs is entitled to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services when the disability does not adversely affect his educational performance.

The brief argues that a student is not eligible to receive special education or related services based solely on an autism diagnosis. The student in this case, while identified with autism, was deemed ineligible for IDEA services because he successfully met all requirements to graduate from high school.

In their brief, NSBA and its co-signing state school boards associations urge the Ninth Circuit to limit eligibility for special education and related services only to students who have a disability that adversely affects their educational performance in a manner that requires specialized instruction and related services to benefit from public education.

While IDEA is meant to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, it is not intended as an unrestricted mandate for schools to cure or remediate all effects of a child’s disability. That is, nonacademic struggles alone do not qualify students for special education and related services under IDEA. The purpose and intent of IDEA is to provide students with a “basic floor of opportunity.” 

In addition to NSBA, eight state school board associations filed the joint brief. Co-signatories include the Association of Alaska School Boards, Arizona School Boards Association, California School Boards Association, Idaho School Boards Association, Montana School Boards Association, Nevada Association of School Boards, Oregon School Boards Association, and the Washington State School Directors’ Association.

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