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Brown v. Board of Education: As Relevant Today As 1954

Friday, May 17, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall


WASHINGTON, DC – In honor of the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education (Brown), the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) issued the following statement:


As the leading advocacy organization fighting for the rights of the 6.8 million students with disabilities in America, we wish to acknowledge the anniversary of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown. which promised to change the face of public education by clarifying that ‘the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.“[i] These historic words provided a bedrock from which Congress and the courts built civil rights protections and opportunities for marginalized students; including for students with disabilities and students of color under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).[ii] 

Sadly, not only is it clear that critical civil rights work to implement the promise of Brown has not been sustained; Black, Latino and Native American students are actually less integrated than they were in 1954,[iii] with the Education Department’s own Civil Rights Data Collection showing that students of color and students with disabilities are more harshly disciplined and pushed out of the classroom at higher rates than their Caucasian peers.[iv] The result of the increasing segregation of large sectors of our student bodies amounts to an increasingly unequal educational opportunity. 

COPAA’s work helps to ensure that the promise of Brown is fulfilled, namely that ‘all children can receive a positive, meaningful, and equitable education.[v]  We must take action to reverse and remedy lost instruction time for children of color and children with disabilities[vi] and end alarmingly low academic outcomes and reduced access to career training, postsecondary education, employment and independent living opportunities. We will not relent. COPAA calls upon our members, our advocacy partners, policymakers and all stakeholders to continue the fight with renewed vigor. This historic decision made 65 years ago today continues to guide and lead us in the quest for equitable education.”

[i] Brown v. Board of Ed. of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kan., 347 U.S. 483, 495 (1954).

[ii] 20 U.S.C. § § 1400-1482

[iii] Orfield and Frankenberg (2014) Increasingly Segregated and Unequal Schools as Courts Reverse Policy. Education Administration Quarterly. Volume: 50 issue: 5, page(s): 718-734

[iv] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Civil Rights Data Collection (2015-16). https://ocrdata.ed.gov/

[v] Brown. At 493.

[vi] Losen. Daniel J. (2018) Disabling Punishment: The Need for Remedies to Disparate Loss of Instruction Experienced By Black Students with Disabilities. The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, The Civil Rights Project.

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