Vanderbilt Law Review

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This country has long recognized the necessity of an education in order to function productively in society. As suggested by one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, "some degree of education is necessary to prepare citizens to participate effectively and intelligently in our open political system." More recently, the Supreme Court recognized the importance of education in Brown v. Board of foreclose the means by which that group might raise the level of es- teem in which it is held by the majority .... Illiteracy is an enduring disability."

Today this need to educate remains just as pressing. Our country is plagued by economic and social costs because of its failure to provide this "basic tool." Without an education, adults are unable to provide for themselves financially, much less for their families. As a result, many turn to crime. Theft, drugs, and violence become the solution, and society is left the victim of the very problem it helped to create.

This Note focuses on children with mental impairments and the public school system's current attempts to meet their needs. Historically, despite the American judicial system's recognition of the importance of education," children with disabilities were routinely denied the benefits of the free public education the Court required for children of all races in Brown." This denial took two forms. The first was outright exclusion of children with mental impairments from public schools, and the second was more subtle, lying in the system's tendency to see only the impairment, not the unique individual. Children's advocates began responding to these injustices in the 1960s and early 1970s, relying on the strong language in Brown to argue that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects not only children of different races, but also children with disabilities: "Such an [educational] opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms."' The fruits of these advocates' labor were realized in two federal court cases in 1972.

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