David J. Berney and Kevin Golembiewski filed an amicus brief today in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the Education Law Center, New Jersey Special Education Practitioners, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The brief supports the appellants in K.D. et al. v. Downingtown Area School District, No. 17-3065 (3d Cir.).
K.D. is a child with specific learning disabilities. Her parents sued Downingtown Area School District under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), arguing that Downingtown denied her a chance to make appropriate educational progress. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled against the parents. It found that, although K.D. made minimal educational progress, such progress was appropriate for her. Driving this finding was the court’s presumption that children with learning disabilities like K.D. cannot reasonably be expected to make grade-level progress.
COPAA and the other amici intervened in K.D. because they are concerned about this presumption. The presumption is factually flawed, and it contravenes the IDEA. The amicus brief explains:
[C]hildren with learning disabilities are a diverse group, and with appropriate, individualized interventions, many are capable of advancing grade to grade with their nondisabled peers. Children with learning disabilities have deficits in a specific learning skill, so some struggle in reading, some in math, and some in other areas. And a child’s learning disability is just one part of her educational profile. Beyond learning disabilities, other factors influence a child’s potential, including social intelligence, creativity, emotional regulation, and work ethic. Each child with a learning disability possesses a unique blend of these attributes. Many children with learning disabilities have average to above-average intelligence and potential for grade-level growth.
The brief then goes on to point out that:
[The] IDEA, designed to protect children from misconceptions and low expectations forbids [the district court’s] presumption. It demands that schools expect grade-level advancement from children with learning disabilities, including those with severe learning disabilities in comprehension, reading, and writing.
You can access the full amicus brief here.