Moments in Disability History 6
"The Right to Education Based on Brown v. Board of Education"
Dr. Gunnar Dybwad was Professor of Human Development at the Florence Heller Graduate School of Brandeis University and an internationally known authority on developmental disabilities. In 1954, early in his tenure as Executive Director of the then-named National Association for Retarded Children, Dr. Dybwad called attention to the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. He suggested that what Brown sought to recognize and change for African American children, that "separate facilities are inherently unequal," had enormous possibilities for children with disabilities as well.
The biggest breakthrough came in 1971 when attorney Thomas K. Gilhool, representing the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (PARC v. Commonwealth), used Brown v. Board of Education in his arguments in a case that resulted in a landmark decision affirming the right to education at public expense and due process for children with disabilities.
The New York Times, on page one, quoted Dr. Dybwad: "The decision makes Pennsylvania the first state in the union to guarantee education and training to all of its children with developmental disabilities now and in the future." Four days later, on its editorial page, The New York Times called on the Congress to do that for all of the states of the United States. Within two months in the House of Representatives, and another month later in the United States Senate, what became section 504 was introduced, and shortly thereafter, what became the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act of 1975, was given birth as Public Law 94-142.
In these video clips, Dr. Dybwad speaks of the influence of the courts and Tom Gilhool speaks of Dr. Dybwad's influence on the courts.
Video: Gunnar Dybwad Re PARC Case
Video: Selections from an Oral History of Policy and Advocacy in Developmental Disabilities
as Reflected in the Life and Works of Gunnar Dybwad Ph.D.:
The Contribution of the Courts to the Renewal of the Field of Mental Retardation
Gunnar Dybwad: Segment, The Right to Education
Video: Tom Gilhool Speaks About Gunnar Dybwad and Historic PARC Case