Education Law

PARC v. Commonw. of Pa. , 1971). Local districts providing preschool education to any children were required to provide the same for mentally retarded children. The decree also stated that it was highly desirable to educate these children in a program most like that provided to non-handicapped children.

Further requirements included the assignment of supervision of educational programs in state schools and institutions to the state department of education, the automatic reevaluation of all children placed on homebound instruction every three months, and a schedule that would lead to the placement of all retarded children in programs by September, 1972. Finally, two masters were appointed by the court to oversee the plans to meet the requirements of the order and agreement (PARC v.Commonw. of Pa. , 1972).

The plaintiffs in PARC used both the due process and the equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to make their case (Rains, 1998). Under the Equal Protection Clause, the plaintiffs argued that the Pennsylvania statute wrongly assumed that children with mental retardation could not benefit from education, and that this false assumption resulted in discrimination against children with mental retardation (Zelin, 1993).

Under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the plaintiffs argued that the state was in violation because it had offered no provisions for notice or for a hearing before it changed the placement of, or excluded a child with mental retardation from school (Zelin, 1993). According to Melnick (1995), there was not much disagreement between the plaintiffs and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the PARC case.

The case was settled after a single day of testimony by a three-judge Federal District Court, which based its final decision upon the previous decision of the U. S. Supreme Court in Brown (Melnick, 1995). Under the PARC consent decree, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agreed to provide children with mental retardation full access to education, up to age twenty-one (Martin, Martin, & Terman, 1996).

According to Martin, Martin and Terman (1996), PARC also established that each child receive an education “appropriate” to his or her learning capacities, and that the preference for providing such education, was in the “least restrictive placement for each child” (p. 28). Although the PARC decision only applied to schools in Pennsylvania, the fact that it had been heard in a Federal district court, had national implications for the education of children with mental retardation (Melnick, 1995).