Gorsuch’s Approval Would Put Vulnerable Students At Risk
Students with disabilities already face a difficult path through our nation’s education system, but President Donald Trump appears determined to add to the disadvantages these students already face. His nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court is yet another sign his administration is less than eager to uphold the rights of these students.
Just how rough do disabled students already have it?
They score far lower on standardized achievement tests, which have become even more of an emphasis in our accountability-driven education system. They’re more than twice as likely to be suspended from school, and they’re much more apt to be bullied at school. They’re less likely to get help in schools, despite legal requirements for schools to provide a free and appropriate education. And while high school graduation rates have hit a record high of 83 percent nationally, graduation rates for these students continue to be mired below 70 percent in 33 states. In seven of those states, the rate is less than 50 percent.
With the Gorsuch nomination, Trump appears increasingly willing to respond to the real obstacles these children face by telling them, “Tough! You’re on your own.”
A vote to approve Gorsuch would be tantamount to saying the same thing.
“Gorsuch is a threat to educational equity and the fundamental rights of all Americans,” says Marge Baker, the Executive Vice President for Policy and Program at People for the American Way.
In an email statement, she points to a previous decision in 2008 in which Gorsuch rejected the opinions of lower courts that had ruled an elementary school child with autism had the legal right to a residential school program.
The boy, Luke, faced serious obstacles in navigating day-to-day life, including using the bathroom and navigating public spaces without breaking out into fits of violence. Although the special education program provided by the public schools had helped, it simply wasn’t enough, and Luke’s parents sought financial remuneration from the school district for his extra level of care.
The case required Gorsuch to apply the proper interpretation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), a key federal law guaranteeing students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate education.