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The Supreme Court review of a battle between the parents of a child with autism and his Colorado school district could help raise the standards of education for some of the more than 6 million schoolchildren with disabilities across the United States.

Federal law guarantees students with disabilities a free appropriate public education, but precisely what that means isn’t well defined. Federal judges often have had different interpretations of what they’re entitled to, which leads to better education and more services for children with disabilities in some states than in others.

The legal battle largely boils down to whether children with disabilities are entitled to “some educational benefit,” as the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the Colorado case, or whether schools should meet a higher standard and provide a “meaningful benefit” to students, as federal appellate courts in the 3rd and 6th circuits have ruled in cases from Pennsylvania and Tennessee.  The 10th Circuit, court wrote that, “Although the ‘meaningful benefit’ standard is purportedly higher than the ‘some benefit’ standard, the difference between them — that is, how much more benefit a student must receive for it to be meaningful — is not clear.”

Parents and advocates for students with disabilities cringe at the idea of the nation’s children with disabilities receiving an education that is only of “some benefit” to them. “Can you imagine being parents and being told your child might not have access to a meaningful level of care? How is that even a question?”

To read the entire article by Rebecca Beitsch, Stateline

A fifth-grader with autism at an elementary school in Dubuque, Iowa, sitting at a desk with a teacher

A fifth-grader with autism at an elementary school in Dubuque, Iowa. Advocates for disabled students say the absence of national standards means children in some states get a better education and more services. © The Associated Press











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