Larry P. v. Riles

Decision Date16 October 1979
Docket NumberNo. C-71-2270 RFP.,C-71-2270 RFP.
Citation495 F. Supp. 926
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California
PartiesLARRY P., by his Guardian ad Litem, Lucille P., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Wilson RILES, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of California, et al., Defendants.

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Armando Menocal, III, Erica Black Grubb, William G. Harris, Public Advocates, Inc., San Francisco, Cal., Stephen S. Dunham, Palmer Brown Madden, Samuel R. Miller, Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco, Cal., Lowell D. Johnston, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., San Francisco, Cal., Louis M. Thrasher, Director, Lucy L. Thomson, Arthur Peabody, Jr., Civ. Rights Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for plaintiffs Larry P. et al.

Joanne M. Condas, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, Cal., for state defendant Wilson Riles.

Daniel E. Collins, III, Thomas Griffin, Deputy City Attys., San Francisco, Cal., for city defendants.

PECKHAM, Chief Judge.

                                                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                SUMMARY                                                                     932
                OPINION                                                                     933
                   I. The Parties                                                           933
                  II. Procedural Background                                                 933
                 III. History of the I.Q. Test and of Special Education in California       935
                      A. The Early History                                                  935
                      B. State Funded Programs for the Educable Mentally Retarded
                         Statutory History                                                  937
                      C. Special Classes for the Educable Mentally Retarded                 941
                      D. The Racial Composition of E.M.R. Classes                           942
                      E. The Use of I.Q. Tests in E.M.R. Placement                          945
                         1. The State Requirement of an I.Q. Test                           945
                         2. The I.Q. Score and the Other Psychological Data for E.M.R
                            Placement                                                       948
                         3. The Moratorium on I.Q. Testing                                  951
                  IV. Intelligence Tests                                                    952
                      A. Introduction: The Impossibility of Measuring Intelligence          952
                      B. Scores of Black and White Children on I.Q. Tests                   954
                      C. Reasons for the Disparity in I.Q. Scores                           954
                         1. The Genetic Argument                                            955
                         2. The Socio-Economic Argument                                     956
                         3. The Cultural Bias of Standardized I.Q. Tests                    956
                      D. The Relevance of Cultural Bias and the Disparity in I.Q. Scores    959
                   V. Legal Analysis                                                        960
                      A. Introduction                                                       960
                      B. Federal Statutory Claims                                           961
                         1. Private Right of Action and Exhaustion of Administrative
                            Remedies                                                        961
                         2. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: One Application of
                            an "Effects Test"                                               964
                         3. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education for All
                            Handicapped Children Act of 1975—Another "Effects Test"   966
                         4. The Question of Validation Despite Discriminatory Effects       968
                         5. Alternatives to I.Q. Testing for E.M.R. Placement               973
                      C. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment            974
                         1. Intentional Discrimination                                      975
                            a. Determining the Standard                                     975
                            b. Applying the Law                                             979
                         2. An "Intermediate" Standard of Review                            985
                
                      D. State Claims                                                       986
                      E. Adequacy of Representation                                         987
                      F. Legal Conclusions                                                  988
                  VI. Remedy                                                                989
                      A. Introduction                                                       989
                      B. Permanent Injunctive Relief                                        989
                         1. Intelligence Tests                                              989
                         2. Disproportionate Placement                                      990
                         3. Reevaluation and Other Class Relief                             990
                      C. The Necessity of Limiting the Scope of the Remedy                  990
                 VII. Conclusion                                                            991
                

Plaintiffs, representing the class of black children in California who have been or in the future will be wrongly placed and maintained in special classes for the "educable mentally retarded" ("E.M.R.")1 challenge the placement process for those classes and particularly certain uses of standardized individual2 intelligence ("I.Q.") tests in California.3 They contend that the I.Q. tests in their present form are biased and that defendants have discriminated against black children by using those tests. The tests allegedly result in the misplacement of black children in special classes that doom them to stigma, inadequate education, and failure to develop the skills necessary to productive success in our society.4 Black children represent only 10 percent of the present general student population in California, but provide some 25 percent of the population enrolled in E.M.R. classes.

These testing and placement problems arise in a setting of educational failure. California's schools have been unable to meet the educational needs of disadvantaged minorities such as the black children who brought this case.5 As a result, poor minority children tend not only to start out behind their white, middle-class counterparts, but also tend to fall increasingly farther behind after exposure to the public school system. Defendant Wilson Riles stated in 1969, before he became Superintendent of Public Instruction, that disadvantaged black children, on the average, learn only about .7 as much as middle-class white children in any given year.6 More recent data confirmed that analysis. Black children fall increasingly behind to the point that it is not unusual for high school students to be reading at the third grade level and performing at only the fourth grade level in mathematics.6a The disproportionate placement of black children into E.M.R. classes is but one aspect of this troublesome situation.

Courts cannot solve our educational problems, but they played a part in the incremental effort to improve those aspects of our educational systems that effectively deny minorities an equal opportunity to succeed. In particular, the phenomenon of special education such as that for the "mentally retarded" has not yet been subjected to much judicial scrutiny.7 We have been forced in this case to enter that complicated area, and it raises special problems for court intervention.

A principal focus of this litigation is on testing—on the use of individual I.Q. tests—to classify black children and assign them to E.M.R. classes. Much of the more then 10,000-page transcript of the trial represents detailed expert testimony about these tests. The court has necessarily been drawn into the emotionally charged debate about the nature of "intelligence" and its basis in "genes" or the "environment." This debate, which finds reknowned experts disagreeing sharply, obviously cannot be resolved by judicial decree. Despite these problems, however, court intervention has been necessary. The history of this litigation has demonstrated the failure of legislators and administrative agencies to confront problems that clearly had to be faced, and it has revealed an all too typical willingness either to do nothing or to pass on issues to the courts.

Fortunately, the "scientific controversy" surrounding the I.Q. tests has not materialized to the extent that might have been expected. The experts have tended to agree about what I.Q. tests can and cannot do, even if they disagree about the utility of I.Q. testing for E.M.R. placement. Our decision, therefore, rests more on a consensus than on the testimony of any one line of experts. Given that consensus, coupled with the other factors present in this case, there is no choice but to invalidate California's present system of classification of black children for E.M.R. classes. The bases for this ruling, both statutory and constitutional, will be explained in detail below, but it may be helpful to summarize them briefly at the outset before proceeding to the main body of the opinion.

SUMMARY

This court finds in favor of plaintiffs, the class of black children who have been or in the future will be wrongly placed or maintained in special classes for the educable mentally retarded, on plaintiffs' statutory and state and federal constitutional claims. In violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, defendants have utilized standardized intelligence tests that are racially and culturally biased, have a discriminatory impact against black children, and have not been validated for the purpose of essentially permanent placements of black children into educationally dead-end, isolated, and stigmatizing classes for the so-called educable mentally retarded. Further, these federal laws have been violated by defendants' general use of placement mechanisms that, taken together, have not been validated...

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21 cases
  • Parks v. Pavkovic
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • March 19, 1982
    ...F.Supp. 171, 220-21 (D.N.H. 1981); Sessions v. Livingston Parish School Board, 501 F.Supp. 251, 254 (M.D.La.1980); Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F.Supp. 926, 963 (N.D. Cal.1979); Doe v. Koger, 480 F.Supp. 225, 228 (N.D.Ind.1979); Armstrong v. Kline, 476 F.Supp. 583, 601-02 (E.D.Pa.1979), aff'd in ......
  • Anderson v. Banks
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Georgia
    • June 17, 1981
    ...no hesitancy in deciding that a private cause of action exists under § 504 and that exhaustion is not required. See Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F.Supp. 926 (N.D.Cal.1979), at 56. In evaluating the claim that the diploma policy violates § 504, the question which must be answered is whether the ch......
  • Larry P. By Lucille P. v. Riles
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • June 25, 1986
    ...been or in the future would be wrongly placed and maintained in special classes for the educable mentally retarded. Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F.Supp. 926, 987 (N.D.Cal.1979). The court held that the use of IQ tests for placement of black children in E.M.R. classes violated Title VI of the Civi......
  • Nodleman v. Aero Mexico
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • December 10, 1981
    ...is a private right of action under Section 504. Kling v. County of Los Angeles, 633 F.2d 876, 878 (9th Cir. 1980); see Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F.Supp. 926 (N.D.Cal. 1979); Boxall v. Sequoia Unified School District, 464 F.Supp. 1104 (N.D.Cal.1979); see also Upshur v. Love, 474 F.Supp. 332 (N.......
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2 books & journal articles
  • 2. Evaluation
    • United States
    • New York State Bar Association Disability Law & Practice, Book 1 (NY) Chapter 3 Special Education
    • Invalid date
    ...be used to evaluate students, based on different findings as to whether such tests are racially discriminatory. See Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F. Supp. 926 (N.D. Cal. 1979), aff’d in part & rev’d in part, 793 F.2d 969 (9th Cir. 1984); Parents in Action on Special Educ. (PASE) v. Hannon, 506 F. ......
  • 3.7 2. Evaluation
    • United States
    • New York State Bar Association Disability Law & Practice, Book 1 (NY) Chapter 3 SPECIAL EDUCATION:LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
    • Invalid date
    ...be used to evaluate students, based on different findings as to whether such tests are racially discriminatory. See Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F. Supp. 926 (N.D. Cal. 1979), aff’d in part & rev’d in part, 793 F.2d 969 (9th Cir. 1984); Parents in Action on Special Educ. (PASE) v. Hannon, 506 F. ......

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