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How school districts will respond to Supreme Court decision expanding students’ special education rights




Seventeen-year-old Passion Rencher, who has cerebral palsy, attends Widney High School – a special education magnet school in near Mid-City.
Seventeen-year-old Passion Rencher, who has cerebral palsy, attends Widney High School – a special education magnet school in near Mid-City.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Public school districts in the United States will now have to provide students with disabilities meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” educational opportunities to advance academically.

After hearing the case back in January, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of an autistic Colorado boy and his family, who took the Douglas County School District to court arguing that he was not provided with a “free and appropriate public education” as is required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975. What ‘appropriate’ means may differ in each individual case, and the justices wouldn’t go as far as to give it a definition in their unanimous decision, but they did come down on the opposite side of other federal courts, which have ruled that the district only needs to provide educational benefits that are more than ‘minimal or trivial.’ The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver had previously ruled in favor of the district.

What will the overall impact be on public school districts across the country? How are local districts in Southern California responding? What trade-offs will have to be made?

Guests:

Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., distinguished professor of education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education

Alex Rojas, Ph.D., superintendent of the Bassett Unified School District, which is located in the San Gabriel Valley; serves some unincorporated parts of L.A. County and portions of the City of Industry, La Puente and Whittier