In a 6-2 decision this week, the U.S. Supreme Court concurred with a National School Boards Association amicus brief, which argued for placing the burden of proof on the challenging party when a student’s individualized education program is questioned.
“The Court’s decision in Schaffer vs. Weast is consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act’s emphasis on a collaborative process between parents and schools who are equal partners in developing IEPs for children with disabilities,” said Francisco Negrón, NSBA’s general counsel. “Justice O’Connor, who wrote the majority opinion, recognized that IDEA has provided parents with plenty of access to educational information about their children so that the school district really has no unfair advantage.”
The opinion also reinforced IDEA’s reliance on the expertise of school personnel to develop appropriate educational programs for children with disabilities and refused to accept the parents’ position, which would make IEPs presumptively invalid. Justice Stevens’ concurrence appropriately noted that public school officials should be presumed to be properly carrying out their difficult responsibilities under this important statute.
“This ruling today is important because school districts across the nation deal with thousands of similar situations,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director. “This decision will help limit the cost of special education hearings, allowing schools to spend the money and resources on educating children, not legal proceedings.”