Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

By Ruth Colker | Go to book overview

6
Brian Schaffer

The next two chapters tell the story of Brian Schaffer and Joseph Murphy. Neither child came from a low-income family; their cases help reveal how difficult it is for any child to prevail under the IDEA. Their cases were brought after Congress amended the IDEA in 1997, and again in 2004, in various ways that were supposed to benefit students with disabilities. Yet, as with Amy Rowley (chapter 3) and Michael Panico (chapter 4), these stories reveal a cumbersome legal process that rarely produces success even for children with highly involved parents and qualified legal counsel.

Brian Schaffer’s case is crucial for all parents challenging an IEP for two reasons. First, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the burden of proof should fall on parents when challenging the adequacy of their child’s IEP. Second, the lower courts that handled this case interpreted the Rowley adequacy standard as creating a very low threshold for a school district despite the 2004 IDEA amendments, discussed in chapter 5. The hearing officer candidly refused to give any weight to the parents’ experts because these experts were likely to be seeking more than the “basic floor of opportunity” required by the IDEA. In other words, so long as a school district offered some expert testimony, parents were unlikely to be able to meet their burden of proof to demonstrate that an IEP does not even create a “basic floor of opportunity.” Congress’s statement in its findings to the 2004 amendments that school districts should have “high expectations for [disabled] children… ensuring

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Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1- Introduction 1
  • 2- The Education for All Handicapped Children Act- Historical Evolution 17
  • 3- Amy Rowley 45
  • 4- Michael Panico 65
  • 5- Post-1975 Amendments 81
  • 6- Brian Schaffer 109
  • 7- Joseph Murphy 125
  • 8- Ohio 137
  • 9- Florida 153
  • 10- New Jersey 169
  • 11- California 183
  • 12- District of Columbia 207
  • 13- The Learning Disability Mess 217
  • 14- A New Beginning 239
  • Notes 247
  • Index 277
  • About the Author 281
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