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Appeals Court Upholds Black Parents' Rights To Learn Child's I.Q.

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A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that allows parents of African-American students in California to seek intelligence testing of their children to determine whether they belong in special-education classes.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected an appeal by the California education department and a group of private plaintiffs in long-running litigation over I.Q. testing of black schoolchildren.

The panel upheld a 1992 ruling by a federal district judge, which said an earlier decision in the case deprived black parents of the full range of assessment opportunities for their children solely because of their race. (See Education Week, Sept. 9, 1992.)

A federal judge in 1979 barred the use of I.Q. tests in California to identify black children for placement in special classes for the "educable mentally retarded." The judge based his ruling on findings that the special classes amounted to educational "dead ends."

However, the judge never reached a conclusion about whether the tests themselves are racially biased.

In 1986, after the so-called E.M.R. classes were abolished, the same U.S. district judge, Robert F. Peckham of San Francisco, expanded his order to ban I.Q. testing of black children referred for any special education classes.

A group of black parents who wanted access to I.Q. tests challenged that 1986 order.

'That Is Wrong'

In 1992, Judge Peckham reversed his own ban on such testing, saying the second group of black parents' interests were not adequately considered in 1986.

That 1992 ruling was unanimously affirmed in a short opinion on Sept. 30 by the Ninth Circuit court in Crawford v. Honig.

However, the state education department issued a memorandum Oct. 1 saying the ban on I.Q. testing of African-American children remains. State officials maintain the tests are racially biased.

The state's response to the ruling angered Mark J. Bredemeier, a lawyer for the Landmark Legal Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., which represents the black parents who want access to I.Q. testing.

"That is wrong," he said. "We will challenge the state and any school district" that continues to bar African-American parents' access to the tests.

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