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Larry P. v. Riles

United States District Court for the Northern District of California
343 F. Supp. 1306 (1972)


Several black elementary-school children (plaintiffs) were placed into educable mentally retarded (EMR) classes in the San Francisco Unified School District (the district) (defendant) based on a intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. The plaintiffs scored below a 75 on the district’s IQ test. The plaintiffs scored significantly better than 75 on IQ tests given by black psychologists who adjusted the test for the plaintiffs’ cultural backgrounds. These psychologists made special attempts to establish rapport with the plaintiffs, overcome the plaintiffs’ defeatism and easy distraction, reword items in more common terms, and give credit to non-standard answers that showed an intelligent approach to the problem. Black students were substantially overrepresented in the EMR program. Black students represented 28.5 percent of the district’s overall population but 66 percent of the students in the EMR program. The EMR classes provided minimal academic instruction, and being placed in the EMR program subjected students to embarrassment and ridicule. Placement in the EMR program was noted on a student’s permanent record. The plaintiffs sued the district and sought a preliminary injunction to prohibit the district from using the IQ test to determine placement into EMR programs for black students.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Peckham, J.)

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