In 1972, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided the case of Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, hereafter PARC v. Pennsylvania. The court ruled that the state could not deny an individual's right to equal access to education based on an intellectual or developmental disability status. PARC brought the case against the state of Pennsylvania on behalf of fourteen families with intellectually disabled children who were unable to access to public schools based on their child’s disability. PARC challenged state laws that permitted schools to deny education to children who do not reach the mental age of five, or the average intelligence of people aged five, by the time they begin first grade. Both sides settled following the testimony of expert witnesses on PARC's behalf, and the US District Court approved the consent decree. PARC v. Pennsylvania was one of the first cases to establish that people born with an intellectual disability should have the same access to education as the rest of the population.

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