Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s views “threatened” an autistic boy’s education, according to the father of the boy, who spoke to senators Thursday.
Jeffrey Perkins testified against Gorsuch’s nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee and urged those present to oppose the judge’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“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. “Judge Gorsuch thought that an education for my son, that was even one small step above insignificant, was acceptable.”
Perkins’ son, Luke, was at the center of a 2008 Colorado case when the family sought reimbursement for their son’s tuition at a private Boston school through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
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An Independent Hearing Officer instructed the Thompson School District in Colorado to begin paying for Luke’s education. The school district appealed the decision several times over the years to no avail, until in 2007, when the school district appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The final ruling was issued in August 2008 and was authored by Gorsuch, who overturned three previous rulings on the case, arguing the school had complied with the federal disability law because their son needed to show gains that were “merely more than de minimis.”
Perkins, in his testimony, said that Gorsuch’s legal reasoning “set a new, low standard of education required under IDEA.”
After the 2008 ruling, the Perkins family was forced to reevaluate their options. Perkins’ wife, Julie, relocated permanently to Dedham, Massachusetts to be closer to Luke, and allowing the Dedham School District to help Luke finish his education at the school.
He argued that the Boston school had produced “astounding progress” for their son in areas where he previously struggled in, and that Gorsuch’s decision was preventing their son “to a meaningful and dignified life.”
On Wednesday, Gorsuch said that as a judge, he was bound by precedent in deciding the Perkins’ case, according to Politico.
“If anyone is suggesting that I like a result where an autistic child happens to lose, that’s a heartbreaking accusation to me. Heartbreaking,” Gorsuch said before a panel of senators. “I was wrong because I was bound by circuit precedent, and I’m sorry.”