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The relationships among poverty, race, standardized test and mental retardation also made their way into the courts in the late 1960s.

Hobson v Hansen (1968) ruled that the Washington D.C. public school system's educational placement decisions were illegal. Children were being placed in educational programs on the basis of standardized tests that discriminated against certain minority and income groups. The Arc US noted that as a result, many children were "misclassified and placed in special education classes." The concern was that typical children were being placed in special education classes, leaving little room for children who "really needed the special instruction."

Diane v State Board of Education (1970) focused on the issue of Mexican-American children being placed in California's special classes for "mildly retarded children." The class action suit ended in an agreement which said, among other things, that intelligence testing had to be in the student's primary language and that the state would undertake the development of more appropriate tests."

Children and adults interacting
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.