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K.D. et al. v. Downingtown Area School District, US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Latsha Davis & McKenna, P.C. authored an Amicus Brief on behalf of several charter schools in an important special education case that was recently decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The charter schools filed their Brief to support the position of the Downingtown Area School District ("District") with respect to a claim filed against it by a former student and her parents. The Third Circuit has ruled in the District's favor.

The former student and her parents filed a claim against the District alleging that the District had failed to provide her with a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 ("IDEA"). An administrative hearing officer found that the school had complied with the IDEA. The student and her parents then filed a claim against the District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Eastern District found for the School District as well. The student and her parents appealed to the Third Circuit.

The primary argument of the former student and her parents was that a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Endrew F. implicitly overruled long-standing Third Circuit precedent that, in order to comply with the IDEA, a public school must give a student with disabilities an education plan that is reasonably calculated to provide a meaningful educational benefit. The former student and her parents argued that the recent decision of the Supreme Court required a higher standard measured by whether the student is achieving at grade level despite her significant disabilities.

The Third Circuit rejected the argument of the former student and her parents and sided with the District and its Amici. It held that nothing in Endrew F. required overturning the meaningful educational benefit standard and that an IEP must be reasonable, but need not be ideal. The Third Circuit also held that the District had met this requirement and the student's IEPs were reasonably calculated to enable her to make appropriate progress. The Third Circuit rejected the idea that Endrew F. required the progress of the former student to be measured against her grade-level peers given that she was receiving supplemental learning support. The Court also held that the District had met the meaningful educational benefit standard because it had reviewed and revised the former student's IEPs to keep them appropriately rigorous.

The case is K.D. v. Downingtown Area School Dist., Docket No. 17-3065 (3d. Cir. 2018).

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