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COPAA Files 9th Circuit Brief: IDEA's Mandates Are Not Empty Aspirations

Tuesday, October 31, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall


Students with Disabilities Must Have Access to the General Education Curriculum and Education in the Regular Classroom to the Maximum Extent Possible


COPAA filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit, R.M. v. Gilbert Unified School District. COPAA member, Amy Langerman, began representing the family on their appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The central issue is the least restrictive environment for a student with Down Syndrome. Essentially, COPAA, and our fellow amici Disability Rights Montana and The National Down Syndrome Society argued that Congress made clear that one of its overriding priorities was giving students with disabilities access to the general education curriculum and education in the regular classroom to the maximum extent possible.  This requirement has been strengthened in subsequent reauthorizations of the IDEA. Moreover, abundant quantitative and qualitative research demonstrates that students with disabilities can achieve considerable educational benefit from access to the general education curriculum and placement in general education classes with supplementary aids and services, such as resource rooms and itinerant instruction. 

IDEA’s mandates are not simply empty aspirations; in fact, research demonstrates that children with disabilities can achieve considerably more educational benefit from placement in general education classes with access to the general education curriculum through supplementary aids and services than from placement in special education classrooms or schools with limited access, or no access to their age-appropriate non-disabled peers or general education curriculum.  Further, the research also supports the finding that when students with and without disabilities spend time together, all students benefit; thus, there is a positive correlation between academic achievement and inclusion.  Additionally, the Supreme Court has recently made clear that the IEPs of children with disabilities must be “appropriately ambitious” to enable them to make progress in the general education curriculum in light of their unique abilities.  Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988, 1000 (2017).  The Court explained that children with disabilities are to be challenged to reach their potential progress just as their non-disabled peers are.  For most students, this progress happens most effectively when children with disabilities are given access to the general education curriculum and included in the general education classrooms with their peers without disabilities. IEPs that are just deemed to be “more appropriate” without regard to the children’s least restrictive environment do not provide children with the ability to meet their true potential, nor do they satisfy the Congressional mandate under IDEA. Selene Almazan, Catherine Merino Reisman, Ellen Saideman and Jessica Salonus drafted and filed the brief for COPAA. 

Read the Appellant’s brief.  

Read COPAA's amicus brief.

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