Free Telephone Consultation

Stay connected with us:

Schedule a Free Phone Consultation

The Supreme Court’s Landmark Special Education Decision Explained


On March 22, 2017 the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark and unanimous decision in favor of special education students in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.

The Court held that for a school to meet its IDEA obligation of providing a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to disabled students, the school must offer an IEP that is “reasonably calculated to enable [a child] to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”


This decision (finally) rejects the longstanding standard requiring an IEP to confer an “educational benefit [that is] merely…more than de minimis.” This standard effectively only required a school to provide some benefit as opposed to none at all. In practice, the old standard left many students with an IEP that, more often than not, was close to no educational benefit at all.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision affirms IDEA’s purpose: providing an “individualized” education program specific to a child’s “unique” needs.


Chief Justice Roberts wrote on behalf of the unanimous Court, “an IEP must aim to enable the child to make progress,” and be “appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances.” The decision went on to explain: “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives,” whether or not that child is fully integrated in the regular classroom.


When Endrew F., a student with autism, was in the fourth grade his parents enrolled him in a private school that specialized in autism. They had sought reimbursement from their school district after becoming dissatisfied with Endrew’s progress.

The school district argued they were not required to pay because, in his prior public school program, Endrew had made “some” educational progress. Attorneys for Endrew and his parents argued that he was entitled to a “meaningful” educational benefit, not just “some” progress.


The Supreme Court’s decision now compels that school districts will be held to a higher standard when developing IEP’s for all students with disabilities. And while the Supreme Court declined to elaborate on what appropriate progress should look like on a case-to-case basis, it emphasized that “the adequacy of a given IEP turns on the unique circumstances of the child for whom it was created.” This is exactly where the focus should be.

Click to see the full text of the Supreme Court’s decision: Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District 


The Special Education Law team at McDowell, Posternock, Apell and Detrick is always available to discuss your special education rights and will fight with and for you and your special education student.

Call us at 856-330-6096.

i felt as if she was looking
out for us like family

We closed our house sale yesterday with Melanie Levan. She was so professional, knowledgeable and great to work with. I felt as if she was looking out for us like family. I highly recommend her.

Debbie Poley Thompson

Our Awards

McDowell Posternock Apell & Detrick attorneys have received recognition from various groups and publications. Specific awards are noted on our attorney bios. More information about each of these awards and the methodology used for selection can be found on the following links. Super Lawyers, Awesome Attorneys, South Jersey Biz Best Attorneys in Business. No aspect of these accolades has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Schedule a Free Phone Consultation

Fill out the form below to receive a free and confidential initial consultation.
For immediate assistance during business hours, call us at (856) 861-3474.
*Bankruptcy consultations may be scheduled in person

Toll Free




Maple Shade

46 West Main Street
Maple Shade, NJ 08052

Fax: (856) 482-5511

Map & Directions


400 North Church St. Suite 250
Moorestown, NJ 08057

Fax: (856) 642-6148

Map & Directions

Browns Mills

57 Juliustown Rd
Browns Mills, NJ 08015

Fax: (609) 893-1277

Map & Directions


1528 Walnut St, Suite 2015
Philadelphia, PA 19102


Map & Directions

Stay connected with us: