Decades ago, there was no evidence or proof to indicate that children with different colors of skin could not be successfully educated together. Racially-segregated schools were the result of prejudicial perceptions and attitudes. Today, the same is true in the disability arena.
Decades ago, parents who were fed up with the discrimination and prejudice directed toward their children because of skin color initiated and won right-to-education cases, which resulted in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision issued on May 27, 1954: “...separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Two decades later, another group of parents followed, initiating and winning right-to-education cases. This time, however, the characteristic was disability, instead of skin color—but the issues were similar. And in one of the disability-related cases (PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) the parents’ attorney presented this similarity to the Court, and the parents prevailed.
Today, many recognize the similarities between the Civil Rights and the Disability Rights Movements. The issues are the same: prejudice and discrimination; invisibility, isolation, and segregation; and second-class citizenship based on a characteristic (skin color for one group, disability for the other). The disability-related right-to-education cases ultimately led to the passage of federal special education law (P.L. 94-142) in 1975 that mandates a free and appropriate public education, in the least restrictive environment, for all students with disabilities.
Decades later, the promise of the Brown decision has not been fully realized. Similarly, 30-plus years after P.L. 94-142 was enacted, the promise of special ed law has not permeated the majority of our nation’s public schools. The intent of both legal mandates is the elimination of segregation and the promotion of inclusion in the public school system, but segregation still exists.
So it seems the impetus for inclusion, in all areas of our society, must go beyond laws and Supreme Court decisions: inclusion is a moral issue. Click here to continue.
The Moral Imperative of Inclusion
New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense