In a new PFAW video released today, father Jeff Perkins shares the story of his son Luke’s struggle to receive an adequate education. His family’s case, Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P. (2008), was heard by Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Tenth Circuit Court:
Luke was a loving child. Initially, the first few months of his life, he was just like his two older brothers. But there was something else wrong and that something else we found out a few months later was autism.
Ultimately the education program that had served him well in his early childhood years was not going to be adequate. He didn’t seem to be doing well at home. In fact, he was losing skills that he had had since preschool. So we sued the school district under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Our case was heard by Judge Gorsuch as well as two other judges on a three judge panel. They looked at the same evidence that the three previous judges had looked at and Judge Gorsuch authored an opinion that overturned all the previous verdicts in our favor. While the initial process was difficult, Judge Gorsuch’s decision was devastating.
We were afraid for Luke. He needed an education to be able to be successful, to survive, to have a quality of life in this world. And because of the things he was struggling with, his world was getting smaller and smaller every day. There were fewer and fewer things that he could do. Judge Gorsuch had a job to fairly and humanely interpret the laws of this country and he failed at that job. He failed my son, Luke. I don’t think he should be given the much more grave responsibility of being a Supreme Court justice. I don’t trust him to interpret those laws correctly and humanely.
In fact, when Luke’s case went in front of Gorsuch—who is now being considered for the Supreme Court vacancy— Judge Gorsuch set a new low standard for students with disabilities, stating that all the school had to do to fulfill its legal responsibilities is to show “merely more than de minimis” progress.
Fortunately for students like Luke and all children with disabilities, this week the Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, overturned Gorsuch’s restrictive interpretation of the law.
Judge Gorsuch was wrong in Luke’s case. He was wrong about what our laws require for our children. And he is the wrong person for the Supreme Court.