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Parents May Seek I.Q. Tests of Black Students in California

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A federal judge ruled last week that parents of black schoolchildren in California may seek intelligence testing of their children to determine whether they belong in special-education classes.

U.S. District Judge Robert F. Peckham of San Francisco lifted his own 1986 order that had banned intelligence testing of all black children in the state's public schools who were referred for special education, except for those being considered for gifted and talented programs.

The 1986 order was an expansion of a landmark 1979 ruling, also written by Judge Peckham, that barred California educators from using IQ tests to identify black schoolchildren for placement in classes for educable mentally retarded children.

The 1979 ruling found that the use of such tests resulted in a disproportionate number of black children being placed in the "dead end'' classes for the retarded, which have since been eliminated.

A group of black parents sued state education officials in 1988, charging that the expanded 1986 order deprived them of the full range of assessment opportunities for their children solely because of their race.

Last year, Judge Peckham issued a preliminary ruling in favor of the parents that allowed them to have their children tested. (See Education Week, July 31, 1991.)

The judge's final ruling on Aug. 31 declared that the 1986 order expanding the I.Q. test ban violated due process of law because it went beyond the scope of the original trial court findings.

The 1979 ruling remains in place, and Judge Peckham ordered a hearing to determine whether there are any present-day equivalents of the "dead end'' classes for the mentally retarded that were the subject of that ruling.

The state education department, which defended the more expansive I.Q. test ban, was still examining the ruling late last week and did not have a comment.

--Mark Walsh

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