Afternoon Headlines August 3, 2017

On Wednesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a lower federal court to review the case of a Highlands Ranch couple trying to get the public school system to pay for the enrollment fees of their autistic son in private school.

The parents of Endrew, now 17, took their son out of Summit View Elementary after he began exhibiting severe behavioral problems. They enrolled him in Firefly Autism in Denver and asked the district to reimburse their enrollment fees, taking the district to court after it refused to comply.

The order comes after a landmark decision in March when the Supreme Court overturned decisions by the 10th Circuit and the U.S. District Court in Denver. The lower courts had ruled in 2008 that the standard for education for the disabled was “merely” more than the bare minimum based on Congress’ mandate under the Disabilities Education Act for a “free appropriate public education.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch sat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver at the time the case was heard in Colorado and during its Supreme Court hearing, received criticism from lawmakers for the way it was handled. The Supreme Court hearing of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District took place while Gorsuch was going through confirmation hearings for his own position in the Supreme Court. He defended the original ruling, saying the court had abided by previous legal rulings on the issue.

The Supreme Court reversed this judgement, saying that under the Disabilities Education Act, a school must offer an individualized educational program that enables a child to make appropriate progress in the context of the child’s circumstances.


A government review released Wednesday says that precautions put in place as part of a ten year cleanup plan of Rocky Flats have been successful in protecting people and the environment.

Federal law requires an updated review every five years. The Department of Energy inspected the most contaminated parts of the area, where plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads were manufactured. This part of Rocky Flats is off-limits to the public.

The factory shut down in 1989 after safety and environmental concerns. The outer parts of the site are now a wildlife refuge. Activists have sued against attempts to construct a visitors center and trails on Rocky Flats.

Saint Vrain School District and Boulder Valley School District have banned school field trips to the site. Despite cleanup efforts, parents and activists have expressed concern about opening the site to the public. The ground was cleaned, but only six feet deep, meaning burrowing animals could potentially expose radioactive soil and objects buried after the plant closed. Dr. W. Gale Biggs spoke at a Saint Vrain School Board meeting in May about the dangers of airborne Plutonium-239 emissions that could still be present at Rocky Flats.

Even construction close to the area has received harsh criticism, such as that of the Candelas neighborhood. If plans to build a visitors center and trails at Rocky Flats go through, construction would begin in 2018 at the earliest.


Senator Cory Gardner held a telephone town hall on Wednesday night that drew 6,000 people. He faced several questions about healthcare after voting for every major Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act last week.

Gardner answered the questions by saying that he thinks Obamacare has worked for some and failed for others and that he will continue to work towards making all parts of healthcare work for everyone. He faced criticism from both side, as some constituents reprimanded him for voting against the Affordable Care Act while others expressed disappointment that the GOP was unsuccessful in moving forward to repeal the act.

Other questions Gardner was asked focused around the Trump administration, North Korea, and infighting among Republicans in Washington. Gardner was questioned why about not holding in-person town hall meetings after coming under fire from liberal activists for not doing so. The senator responded by saying he hopes to hold one soon.

Gardner has been criticized for not holding any in person town hall meetings. Last month several disability rights activists were arrested after staging a multi-day sit in at Gardner’s Denver office over his support of repealing the Affordable Care Act. The trial of those activists begins in Denver next week.

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