Yesterday, eight Supremes agreed to disagree, four to four, about a key special education case, allowing a lower court's ruling to stand while setting no precedent whatsoever for the country. That's a shame; U.S. schools could use some clarity about the oft-ambiguous Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. At question this time was whether districts must pay private school tuition for disabled students who have never set foot in a public school. The "plain language" of the law seems to say no--that only after a school system has failed to provide a "free, appropriate public education" must it fork over the dough for "private placement." The parent in this case--understandably wanting what was best for his child--rejected the suggestion of letting his kid suffer for a whole year before getting access to private education. He's surely got a point. Maybe the school system does, too, however, when it says, in essence, "let us try to educate your child before you opt out." In this case the parent prevailed. But the Supreme Court offered no guidance to anyone else.
"Supreme Court Upholds Tuition Ruling," by David Stout and Jennifer Medina, New York Times, October 11, 2007