Segregation Still Common, Despite 1954 Brown Decision
May 14, 2004
UNITED STATES--On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, that schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution when they segregated students based on race.
This weekend, as the 50th anniversary of this landmark decision is celebrated, many in the disability rights movement are aware that segregation based on disability is still with us.
In an informational bulletin distributed Friday, disability rights attorney Steve Gold cited the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education regarding public education for students with disabilities. The Department found that 22 percent of all children with disabilities are in segregated settings, meaning that they either attend entirely separate schools and facilities, or spend more than 60 percent of their time in separate classrooms from children that do not have disabilities. Of students classified as having "mental retardation", the number rises to 53.7 percent in segregated settings.
Community advocates in North Dakota found it ironic that the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education is being recognized at the same time as their state is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the State Developmental Center in Grafton.
Jim Berglie and Dianne Sheppard, who represent The Arc in North Dakota, wrote in an opinion piece for Friday's Grand Forks Herald that the Supreme Court understood segregation in itself was harmful.
"It was because of this harm that segregation on the basis of race was found unconstitutional in Brown," they wrote. "Segregating people on the basis of a disability is just as harmful."
"We believe that people with disabilities should not be compelled to trade their human and civil rights for services; that people with disabilities should not be required to abandon friends and family to receive services; and that the harm to black children caused by segregation and recognized in Brown has been equally harmful to people with disabilities."
According to a Department of Human Services website, the former North Dakota Institution for the Feeble-Minded still houses between 140 and 160 people with developmental disabilities.
"Brown v. Board of Education - Information Bulletin" (Steve Gold)
"Viewpoint: Stop segregating people with disabilities in Grafton" (Grand Forks Herald)