In 1971 several school aged children, by and through their parents, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education of the District of Columbia ("DC Board of Ed") in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Plaintiffs, represented by public interest and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the Defendants violated DC law and the United States Constitution by denying them access to publicly funded education. Class status was granted on December 17, 1971, and was defined as "all children who are or will be residents of the District of Columbia and are of an age so as to be eligible for a publicly supported education and who are now, were during the 1970-71 school year, or will be excluded, suspended, expelled or otherwise denied a publicly supported education for any period in excess of two days."
Specifically, the Plaintiffs claimed that they were labeled by the school board as "exceptional" students (meaning that they either had behavioral problems, were mentally handicapped, emotionally disturbed or hyperactive) and thus denied them admission to public schools with no alternative placement or periodic review of their status. Plaintiffs estimated that at the time of the complaint there were 22,000 such students in the DC Public School System, and 18,000 of those students were not being given access to a special education program as required by law.
The parties reached a settlement agreement on December 20, 1971 aimed at fixing the problems, however, due to the school board's inability to achieve its requirements, the Court (Judge Joseph Cornelius Waddy) entered Summary Judgment for the Plaintiffs on August 1, 1972. Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia, 348 F.Supp. 866, 871 (D.C. Cir. 1972). In his order, Judge Waddy declared that the School board must (1) provide 4 named class representative with publicly funded education, (2) identify all members of the Mills Class and provide them with publicly funded education, (3) increase funding for special education programs and teachers. Quoting Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954) Judge Waddy further noted that public education is "a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." The Court retained jurisdiction to "allow for implementation, modification and enforcement of th[e] Judgment and Decree as may be required." Mills, 348 F.Supp. at 883.
The case was reopened in 2000 when a new Plaintiff, a ward of DC, claimed status as a member of the Mills Class and sought declaratory and injunctive relief in the same manner as the original Plaintiffs. On January 1, 2001, however, the Court (Judge John Garrett Penn) declared that the Mills Class was closed, and thus barred the Plaintiff's claim and closed the case. Specifically, he held that because Judge Waddy defined the Mills Class as "all children who are or will be residents of the District of Columbia and ARE of an age so as to be eligible for a publicly supported education . . . ," the Plaintiff was ineligible because in 1972, the Plaintiff was not alive, and by definition could not be of an age to be eligible for publicly supported education.
This effectively closed the Mills Class, thus closing Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia.Joshua Arocho - 07/20/2012