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Colorado judge says Douglas County district must pay for autistic student to attend private school

Ruling comes after U.S. Supreme Court decided that special education programs should meet a standard higher than the bare minimum.

A federal judge in Colorado has ruled that the Douglas County School District did not provide an adequate education to a student who has autism and must reimburse his family for the cost of sending him to a private school.

The Denver Post reports that the ruling from U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock represents the latest, and possibly final, chapter in a long-running legal dispute that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case involves the education that the 68,000-student school district was providing a student known in court records as Endrew F.  

In a unanimous ruling last year, the high court decided that federal law requires public schools to offer special education programs that meet a higher standard than simply the bare minimum. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the March 2017 opinion that federal law requires an educational program be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

The high court didn’t offer an opinion on whether Douglas County had reached that bar with the individualized educational program it offered Endrew; it remanded the case to the district court to make that determination.

Judge Babcock reasoned that once the Supreme Court established the elevated standard, Douglas County’s efforts to provide Endrew with a special-needs curriculum had been insufficient. 

“I order that petitioner and his parents are entitled to reimbursement of their private school placement from the district … as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation costs …” Babcock wrote.

MORE—Audio of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court: Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (January 2017):

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