9th Circuit Rules: Rowley Still Good Law

The United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit has confirmed what most of us had expected: the U. S Supreme Court decision in Rowley, et al v. Board of Education 553 ID

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Image via Wikipedia

ELR 656, is still good law.

At the trial level, the U. S. District court had held that the 1997 amendments to the IDEA had changed the definition of FAPE, the IDEA's primary guarantee that a child with a disability receive a free and appropriate public education. Given new language in the goals of the 1997 amendments, the district court held that the Rowley decision, requiring only that and Individualized Educational Plan be reasonably calculated to confer some academic benefit, set the bar too low. JL & ML ex rel KL v. Mercer Island School District 46 IDELR 273 (W. D. Wash 12/8/6)

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit rejected the reasoning of the district court. The appelate panel found that Congress did not intend by the 1997 amendments to overrule the Rowley standard. The Ninth Circuit cited three reasons for disagreeing with the trial court's analysis. First, Congress did not amend the statutory definition of FAPE. Second, Congress did not require attainment of transition goals in order to rceeive FAPE. Third, Congress did not express dissatisfaction with the educational benefit standard or express an intention of overturning the standard. JL, et al v. Mercer Island School District 109 LRP 48649 (Ninth Cir. 8/6/9). You can read the entire court opinion here.

It is interesting that most school district lawyers say that the Ninth Circuit is the most anti-school district circuit. Despite that reputation, this decision is very pro district. I do believe that most special education lawyers will agree with the result, however. So what do you think? Did the Ninth Circuit get it right?