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