Recently, I wrote about a case going before the Supreme Court, “Supreme Court Weighing in on Special Education.” I wrote, “At issue is whether school districts need to provide a substantial or ‘meaningful’ benefit, which has been the general belief for the last 40 years, or whether school districts can provide ‘de minimis’ services – if the child progresses at all, justice is served. There is potentially much at stake.”
Most happily, this case was decided – unanimously! – in favor of education, against “de minimis” services. Even though lower courts and the appeals courts had ruled for minimal standards, the Supreme Court said that schools must allow all students to make progress according to their “circumstances.” This is good news for all disabled kids nationwide.
However, let’s not get too celebratory. The current candidate for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, has endorsed the lower courts’ ruling. He is a federal appeals judge in Denver, the state that this case originated.
Think the Black Lives Matter movement has nothing to do with special education?
People in North Carolina would disagree. According to ncpolicywatch.com, a new state policy “requires, for a child to be eligible under a learning disability, that their academic performance be compared to ‘culturally and linguistically similar peers, classroom, school and/or comparison groups.'”
Culturally? Read racially.
Newsobserver.com reports that although nonwhite students comprise 45% of total school enrollment in NC, they comprise 85% of enrollment in 50 of the lowest-performing schools. If a nonwhite student performs poorly, it could be argued that since other students in the cohort perform poorly, there is no problem. No disability. No need for special education services.
In other words, since so many of these kids underperform, not many of them have disabilities.
Schools need money. If schools don’t have as many kids in sped programs, more money will be freed for general education. The way to do that is to limit the kids who qualify.
Is this legal? Possibly. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), states are allowed to create guidelines for who qualifies for each disability type, according to understood.org. Meanwhile, the Learning Disabilities Association of NC has asked federal officials to block the state policy. (States vs federal rights!)
So. Your child’s eligibility for special education is not only a function of his/her ability. It is a function of where you live and go to school. And now it also depends on your looks.