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Case Name Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia ED-DC-0002
Docket / Court Civ. A. No. 71-1939 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization Bazelon Center
Case Summary
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, ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Recordkeeping
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Disability
Mental impairment
General
Classification / placement
Funding
Individualized planning
Record-keeping
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Board of Education of the District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description 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.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Bazelon Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2001
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Legal Reform of Special Education: Empirical Studies and Procedural Proposals
By: David Kirp, William Buss, and Peter Kuriloff (University of California Berkeley, University of Iowa and University of Pennsylvania)
Citation: 62 Cal. L. Rev. 40 (1974)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:71−cv−01939 (D.D.C.) 03/21/2001
ED-DC-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion, Judgment and Decree 08/01/1972 (348 F.Supp. 866) (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order 09/12/2000 (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 11/21/2000 (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 01/04/2001 (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum 01/04/2001 (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Penn, John Garrett (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0001 | ED-DC-0002-0002 | ED-DC-0002-0003 | ED-DC-0002-0004 | ED-DC-0002-9000
Waddy, Joseph Cornelius (D.D.C.)
ED-DC-0002-0005
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burnim, Ira Abraham (District of Columbia)
ED-DC-0002-9000
Eig, Michael J. (Maryland)
ED-DC-0002-9000
Houston, William E. (Virginia)
ED-DC-0002-9000
Seltzer, Tamara Lynn (District of Columbia)
ED-DC-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Earl, William Johnson Jr. (District of Columbia)
ED-DC-0002-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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