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Case Name Larry P. v. Riles ED-CA-0018
Docket / Court NO. C-71-2270 RFP ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
In 1971, the parents of six African American elementary school children in San Francisco filed this suit in the Northern District of California against the California Department of Education. In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs sued the California Department of Education under Title VI of the ... read more >
In 1971, the parents of six African American elementary school children in San Francisco filed this suit in the Northern District of California against the California Department of Education. In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs sued the California Department of Education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d) et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401—1461; the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972 and 1974, 20 U.S.C. §3191 et seq.; and the equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The plaintiffs, represented by public interest attorneys, sought injunctive relief against the defendants.

The plaintiffs represented a class of African American children in California who had been placed — or might in the future be placed — in special education classes for the “educable mentally retarded” (EMR). The EMR classes were established as part of a larger California program to assist children with learning disabilities. Children were tested and divided into categories for varying levels of mental disability; the EMR classes were designed for children found to be incapable of learning in regular classes and prevented students from developing the skills necessary to return to the regular school environment. Plaintiffs specifically challenged the process used to place students in these classes, particularly the standardized individual intelligence (I.Q.) tests. They contended that the process was biased against African American children, leading to increased socio-economic and educational disparity.

In 1972, Judge Robert Peckham for the district court certified the plaintiff class and granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. Relying on plaintiff’s statistics, the court found a racial imbalance in the EMR classes and was inclined to grant the specific forms of relief requested by plaintiffs. Due to the preliminary stage of the case, however, the court reserved judgment for trial. In 1974, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the class certification and preliminary injunction per curiam. Subsequent to the ruling, the California State Board of Education issued a moratorium on all IQ testing for African American students for EMR placement. Diana Pullin, J.D., Ph.D. Perry A. Zirkel, Testing the Handicapped: Legislation, Regulations and Litigation, 44 Ed. Law Rep. 1, 8 (1988).

The trial began in 1977. Plaintiffs amended the complaints to include violations of Title VI and EHA among several other state and federal claims. Judge Peckham again wrote the opinion for the district court, finding that, based on plaintiffs’ substantial statistical evidence, there was no valid rational justification for the IQ tests. The court found that the IQ tests were dispositive in placing a disproportionate number of black children in EMR classes, even after state statutes were revised to require a more comprehensive assessment. After rejecting the defendants’ genetic and socioeconomic arguments, the court found that the IQ tests likely had a cultural bias, assuming in effect that black children were less intelligent than white children. The court held that the defendants intentionally discriminated and the IQ tests violated Title VI, Section 504, the EHA, and the equal protection clauses of both federal and state constitution. The Court issued a permanent injunction against the IQ tests. The court also called for the state to monitor and eradicate the disproportionate enrollment of African American children in EMR classes.

The defendants appealed and in an amended 1986 opinion the Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction. However, the court did not find sufficient discriminatory intent for a constitutional violation of the federal or state equal protection clause. The Ninth Circuit also found that the lower court did not have the appropriate jurisdiction to adjudicate the state constitutional claims. The court vacated the district court’s judgment on the constitutional claims.

In September 1986, both parties asked the district court to modify its injunction. The court altered its monitoring directives and required alternative means of assessment for student placement. These assessments included, inter alia, students’ personal history, behavior, and classroom performance. The court also further refined its scope for the impermissibility of the administration of IQ tests to black students. Diana Pullin, J.D., Ph.D. Perry A. Zirkel, Testing the Handicapped: Legislation, Regulations and Litigation, 44 Ed. Law Rep. 1, 9 (1988).

It should be noted that the only documents available are the two district court opinions and the two Ninth Circuit opinions. No docket is currently available.

Carolyn Weltman - 04/10/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Special education
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Indv. w/ Disab. Educ. Act (IDEA), Educ. of All Handcpd. Children Act , 20 U.S.C. § 1400
State law
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) California Department of Education
Plaintiff Description The plaintiffs represented a class of African American children in California who had been placed — or might in the future be placed — in special education classes for the “educable mentally retarded” (EMR)
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Case Listing ED-CA-0020 : Crawford v. Honig (court not recorded)
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 ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Order and Memorandum [District Court] 06/20/1972 (343 F.Supp. 1306) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0018-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion [9th Circuit] 08/16/1974 (502 F.2d 963)
ED-CA-0018-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
District Court Opinion 10/16/1979 (495 F.Supp. 926) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0018-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion [9th Circuit] 06/25/1986 (793 F.2d 969)
ED-CA-0018-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Anderson, J. Blaine (D. Idaho, Ninth Circuit)
ED-CA-0018-0003
Duniway, Benjamin Cushing (Ninth Circuit)
ED-CA-0018-0003
Koelsch, Montgomery Oliver (Ninth Circuit)
ED-CA-0018-0003
Peckham, Robert Francis (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0018-0001 | ED-CA-0018-0002
Poole, Cecil F. (N.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit)
ED-CA-0018-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dunham, S. Stephen (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Grubb, Erica Black (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Harris, William G. (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Johnston, Lowell D. (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Madden, Palmer Brown (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Menocal, Armando M. III (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001 | ED-CA-0018-0002 | ED-CA-0018-0004
Miller, Samuel R. (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Peabody, Arthur E. Jr. (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Sorgen, Michael S. (California)
ED-CA-0018-0002 | ED-CA-0018-0003
Thomson, Lucy L (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Thrasher, Louis M. (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Williams, Oscar (California)
ED-CA-0018-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Collins, Daniel E. III (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001 | ED-CA-0018-0003
Condas, Joanne (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Deukmejian, George (California)
ED-CA-0018-0004
Griffin, Thomas (California)
ED-CA-0018-0001
Myers, Richard (California)
ED-CA-0018-0002
O'Connor, Thos. M. (California)
ED-CA-0018-0002
Williamson, Ray (California)
ED-CA-0018-0002
Younger, Evelle J. (California)
ED-CA-0018-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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