CHADD Joins Amicus Brief Filed with Supreme Court in Landmark Case Regarding Students with Disabilities

LANHAM, Md.--()--What defines a free and appropriate public school education for students with disabilities? This monumental question is currently being considered by the Supreme Court of the United States following oral arguments on January 11, 2017 in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. At issue is the legal standard to which public schools should be held in providing a meaningful education for the country’s more than six million students with disabilities. CHADD, the leading resource on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has signed on to an amicus brief—or “friend of the court” brief—developed by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), arguing that children affected by disabilities are entitled to more than a minimum education under the law.

“This is the most important case addressing special education in more than 30 years,” says Matt Cohen, JD, a practicing attorney and an active member of CHADD’s Public Policy Committee, which advocates on behalf of children and adults with ADHD. “It concerns what is meant by the word ‘appropriate.’ That single word is the most significant word in special education, as it defines what level of services schools are expected to provide for students with disabilities, including ADHD.”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), enacted in 1975, is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of students with disabilities. Its goal is to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as students who do not have disabilities. The IDEA requires schools to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for eligible students, against which progress is measured on an ongoing basis.

The parents of Endrew (Drew) F.—a student with autism and ADHD—removed their son from public school in Colorado when he was not making acceptable progress toward his educational goals. They were unsuccessful in convincing the school to provide more than the minimum services that appear to be required by law. Once enrolled in private school, Drew made substantial strides. Drew’s parents sued his public school, requesting tuition reimbursement for private schooling, but lost that battle in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Supreme Court accepted Drew’s parents’ challenge to that decision.

“Essentially, the matter at hand involves the interpretation of the IDEA and the standard to which schools should be held accountable,” says Cohen. “There are different interpretations of the law and varying standards, depending on where you live. The way some schools have interpreted the standard is to do the bare minimum, which is far less than any of us would want for our children. The Supreme Court is being asked to decide if the lower standard is sufficient, or if the standard needs to be raised to ensure that public school education provides meaningful benefit for students with disabilities. It is CHADD’s position that the minimum standard is profoundly inadequate and legally incorrect.”

Regardless of the outcome of the case, students with disabilities, including those with ADHD, are also entitled to protection in school under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal civil rights statute that says schools cannot discriminate against children with disabilities. According to this statute, schools that receive federal dollars must provide eligible children who have disabilities with an equal opportunity to participate in all academic and non-academic services the school offers.

It is anticipated that the Supreme Court will make a decision regarding Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District by year end, possibly within the next few months.

The complete amicus brief can be found at

About ADHD

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning and life’s achievements. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the 8% of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD. These children have higher rates of retention in grade level, high school dropout, and substance abuse than their peers. ADHD is very manageable using an individualized, multimodal treatment approach that can include behavioral interventions; parent and patient training, educational support, and medication. Within the school system, ADHD is managed by classroom strategies and interventions.


CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is the leading resource on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), providing support, training, education and advocacy for the 17 million children and adults in the United States living with ADHD, their families, educators and healthcare professionals. As home to the National Resource Center on ADHD, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CHADD is the most trusted source of reliable, science-based information regarding current medical research and ADHD management. To learn more, visit or call 310.306.7070.


Barbara Link, 610-668-2855

Release Summary

At issue is the legal standard to which public schools should be held in providing a meaningful education for students with disabilities. CHADD has signed onto a brief filed with the Supreme Court.


Barbara Link, 610-668-2855