"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Autistic Children Have the Right to a Quality Basic Education

Article XIII of  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that education is a basic right. In mentioning education, the treaty explicitly defines education as "enabling a person to participate effectively in a free society". Before the US Supreme Court is a case involving an autistic child. Emma Brown of the Washington Post summarizes the case in one question: "...whether public schools owe disabled children “some” educational benefit — which courts have determined to mean just-above-trivial progress — or whether students legally deserve something more: a substantial, “meaningful” benefit."

Above copied from the Washington Post
After US president Donald Trump announced his nominee for the Supreme Court, Tenth Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, the above case becomes even more important. Gorsuch is a member of the panel that ruled in favor of a school district against parents who were asking for help for their autistic child. In that ruling, Gorsuch's panel wrote:
We sympathize with Luke's family and do not question the enormous burdens they face. Our job, however, is to apply the law as Congress has written it and the Supreme Court has interpreted it. Though IDEA is certainly evidence that Congress intends that States, acting through local school districts, provide assistance to disabled students and their families, the assistance that IDEA mandates is limited in scope. The Act does not require that States do whatever is necessary to ensure that all students achieve a particular standardized level of ability and knowledge. Rather, it much more modestly calls for the creation of individualized programs reasonably calculated to enable the student to make some progress towards the goals within that program. The findings of every factfinder in this case indicate that this standard has been met here. For this reason, we are constrained to reverse the district court's judgment and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Gorsuch is apparently satisfied with "some" benefits, excluding the fact that education involves meeting standards. A meaningful education is one that "enables a person to participate effectively in a free society". Every child is entitled to this meaningful education. US president Trump has already nominated someone who has no experience in public education to head the Department of Education. Now, he is nominating someone to the highest court who believes that schools are expected only to yield "some" benefits to children. These nominations should really teach us that elections have consequences.


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