Jack D. Robinson
In recognition of his illustrious career in special education law and his dedication to protecting the legal right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities on the state and national levels, The Arc is honoring Jack D. Robinson with the 2018 Catalyst Award for Legal Advocate of the Year.
As a Founding Partner at Spies, Powers and Robinson, P.C., Jack D. Robinson has spent the past several decades representing children with disabilities and their parents against educational marginalization and discrimination and student mistreatment and abuse in schools. Most recently, Robinson represented Endrew F. before the U.S. Supreme Court in the IDEA case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The Endrew F. decision has been hailed as a landmark decision that transforms the educational rights of students with disabilities and empowers parents fighting for the civil rights of their disabled children. In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court rejected the prevailing “merely more than de minimis” standard for what constitutes an “appropriate” education as not providing children with disabilities an education at all – a standard, the Court said, that aimed so low that it was tantamount to having disabled children “sitting idly awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out.” In its place, the Supreme Court established a “markedly more demanding” standard that ensured all children with disabilities were provided an ambitious educational program in light of their unique circumstances and based on their individual potential.
The tremendous impact of the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case was felt not just in Colorado, but across the national disability community. This groundbreaking decision has fundamentally altered the way that policymakers and educators view the question of a free appropriate public education, particularly as it relates to goal-setting and education standards for school-age individuals with disabilities. His work has sent a resounding message to our entire community that children with disabilities and their parents can and should ask for higher standards for appropriate services, supports and accommodations in order ensure that all children receive the same level of quality education, regardless of abilities.