People For the American Way

Father Of Student With Autism Slams Neil Gorsuch For ‘Eviscerating’ Disability Rights Law

News and Analysis

This post originally appeared on Right Wing Watch.

Jeff Perkins testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today regarding the case he brought against his local school district over its treatment of his son, Luke, who was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old.

When the school was unable to improve his son’s life skills, Perkins enrolled Luke in a private school and requested to be reimbursed by the school district, citing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s guarantee that children with disabilities receive a free, suitable education. When the school district denied the request, the Perkins family went to court.

After a hearing officer, an administrative law judge, and a federal trial court judge, Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch—Trump’s Supreme Court nominee—sided with the school district. Perkins noted that Gorsuch ruled that schools could do the bare minimum for children with disabilities.

Yesterday the Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, overturned Gorsuch’s restrictive interpretation of the law.

“Thank you for the opportunity today to give voice to my son, Luke, whose access to an appropriate education, and thus to a meaningful and dignified life, was threatened by views of Judge Neil Gorsuch,” Perkins said in his remarks, before describing his son’s improvements since attending a separate school.

Gorsuch’s reasoning, Perkins said, “set a new low standard of education required under IDEA.” He continued: “Judge Gorsuch thought that an education for my son that was even one small step above insignificant was acceptable. Despite Luke’s inability to make three-quarters of his educational goals or to use any of his skills outside the classroom, his education was judged appropriate.”

“Judge Gorsuch eviscerated the educational standard guaranteed by the IDEA,” and his reasoning “has been used to deny an appropriate public education to countless other disabled children in the Tenth Circuit over the last nine years,” Perkins added.