OK so that is close to a hornbook style rule, right. Unfortunately even here there is room for argument.
Whenever a court discusses a FAPE issue, it invariably quotes Rowley, as it should. But then some circuits state the standard as meaningful educational benefit; whereas some state the standard as some educational benefit. Many have argued that the latter standard is higher.
This issue hit the fan in a Tenth Circuit decision issued last Tuesday. The case is Endrew F by Joseph F & Jennifer F v. Douglas County Sch Dist RE-I 115 LRP 39422 (10th Cir. 8/25/2015). In this case, the parents urged the Court to adopt the "higher" meaningful benefit standard. The court analyzed the issue and decided to apply the some educational benefit standard.
The thing is that I don't think that the practical applications of the standard are different whether called meaningful or not. The Supreme Court has spoken on the FAPE standard, and the circuit courts of appeal are not free to adopt a higher standard. In our system the Supremes get the final word. The Rowley standard is the law. Period.
Also I don't see much difference in how the standard is applied on a given set of facts, regardless of whether the term meaningful is added by the courts. The result is really the same for all practical purposes. Indeed, the Tenth Circuit hinted at this problem in its opinion. (The cool stuff is always in the footnotes.) In footnote number 8, the court noted that the difference between meaningful benefit and some benefit is not clear. I agree completely.
You can and should read the Tenth Circuit's opinion here. This argument will come up again.
So what do you think? What the heck is the FAPE standard? And can't we agree on anything?