In the year 1892, a case commonly referred to as Plessy vs. Ferguson set the ball rolling for segregation in American public schools. This made several states to adopt the policy ‘separate but equal’ and since then, all the schools in all the states in the south adopted this (Robinson, 2005). Racial segregation in schools was a normal practice in America even in the 1950s and most black schools were regarded as inferior to the white ones (Cozzens,1998). In 1951, a parent, Oliver Brown decided to contest this in the court and this case is what is referred to as Brown VS board of education.

The ruling of this case made a historical landmark in American public schools for it did away with the segregation in schools (Robinson, 2005). This essay seeks to explore on the case and show how it relates to special education. What led to the case? In 1951, a little African-American girl called Linda used to attend one of the public schools in Topeka Kansas, and was in the third grade. Her home was not far from a white elementary school and one day the father attempted to enroll her in that school, he was not allowed.

This forced Linda to go to another school for the blacks only, which was one mile away from her home. Every day, she had to pass through a rail road to go to the black school even though a white school was just near her home. This troubled her father, Mr. Brown and he vowed to contest this in the court (Cozzens, 1998). He approached Mr. Mc Kinley who was the head of National Association for the advancement of colored people (NAACP), Topeka’s branch so that he could be assisted on how to go about it. The association was ready to help for they had waited for long for this to happen.

The parents from the black’s community joined the group and in 1951, they called for an injunction by the court to prohibit this kind of discrimination (Cozzens, 1998). Background of the case In the District court, the board of education tried to defend the segregation by saying that, there was nothing that could be done because segregation was a normal thing in life and by doing that in schools, it was like preparing the children to these facts of life, so that when they get into their adulthood, they would be able to face the realities of racism.

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The board went further to give examples of black people who had made it in life even after going through that kind of education for example; Fredrick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver (Robinson, 2005). All these attended the schools which were meant for blacks only. The judges concluded the case by saying that, that kind of segregation affected the black children in a negative way; in fact they called the effect “a detrimental effect. ”

However, they felt constrained to rule against the parents basing on the Plessy vs.  Ferguson case which had set a legal precedent about the segregation. The judges thus did not hand down the injunction that had been requested by Mr. Brown and others, hence they ruled in favor of the board (Robinson, 2005). Mr. Brown appealed the ruling in the US Supreme Court. The case was combined with others from South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. The case was first heard in 1951 but the ruling was not delivered but rather discussed the issues of whether the Plessy Vs Ferguson case had gone against the fourteenth amendment. The case was later heard in 1953.

The one who later came to be first black American supreme court justice, Thurgoog Marshall, argued for the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court finally decided on the case in the year 1954. Desegregation of the school came to be after the ruling though by the time the ruling was made, Linda had proceeded to middle school (Robinson, 2005). Summary of the case Many arguments arose regarding the case. One of the arguments stated that, the segregation in the schools was purely racism and it was going against the fourteenth amendment which was supposed to provide equal protection of the law to the blacks.

Although the facilities in the white schools and the black ones were the same, they were still being segregated upon (Findlaw, 2010). Another argument emerged that, the fourteenth amendment was not conclusive enough in its effects on education especially the public ones. If a state had decided to provide education, then it must provide it equally to all. It was also argued that, this segregation was infringing on the minorities rights since it was denying the equal opportunity to education despite the fact that all the schools were having the same facilities.

So whatever the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson adopted; “the equal doctrine” had no significance to public education (Findlaw, 2010). The case was combined with another called Briggs et al. v. Elliot et al which was an appeal case from South Carolina and Davis et al. v. School board, from Virginia’s County. The other case was between Gebhart et al v Belton et al from Delaware. The case was argued for the appellants by Robert L. Carter, Thurgood Marshall and Spottswood W. Robinson. From the other side of the respondents was argued by Louis L. Redding and Jack Greenberg. The re-arguments were made by Jack Greenberg and Thurgood Marshall (Findlaw, 2010).

The opinion of the court was delivered by the chief justice, Mr. Warren. He said that in the four cases that had been presented to them, the appellants were in other words requesting the courts to help them get admissions for their children in public schools without segregation. They had been denied the admission by these schools because the law allowed segregation on the racial basis and thus infringing on their rights to equal protection of the law. Chief justice continued to interpret the “separate but equal doctrine” by saying that it allowed the schools to have the same facilities but in separate places.

He said that the plaintiffs did not buy that idea of equality and argued that, the schools were never equal in the first place since they deny one race admission (Findlaw, 2010). There were so many reasons which were given to explain why the fourteenth amendment was not that conclusive in regards to public education. By the time the amendment was being adopted, the movements that lobbied for free common schools were not that strong and most of the white schools were being run by private groups. At that time, the education of the blacks had not taken root and most of them were illiterate.

Moreover, in some states, the education for blacks was prohibited by the law (Findlaw, 2010). Howeverin the 1950s, the blacks had achieved a lot in sciences and arts and had had so much success in the world of business and profession. The curriculum of those times when the fourteenth amendment was being adopted was not up to the standard of the 1950s. They were rudimentary and the schools were generally un-graded. The terms only took three months and education was not compulsory and thus it did not come as a shock that the fourteenth amendment had no much impact on the public education (Findlaw, 2010).

It emerged in the court that ‘equal but separate’ doctrine was being used to equalize schools in regards to buildings, salaries of the teachers, curricula and other factors which are considered tangible. Thus, the court could not make a decision based on comparing tangible factors in the schools, but only concentrated on how segregation impacted on the public education. The chief justice continued to say that, the court would only look at the matter in light of how education had developed over the years and its state then in America.

That was the only way to find out if the black people were actually being deprived of their rights (Findlaw, 2010). The chief justice did not hesitate to point out the importance of education in America as a country. He said that education was one of the most important roles of the states and the governments. The way the American government spent on education and how it emphasized on compulsory education was enough in assuring its commitments to education as it was fundamental in the democratic America (Findlaw, 2010).

He went further to say that, education was a requirement especially when it came to the citizens performing their basic responsibilities to the public. Also it forms a basis for one to become a good citizen. It is also important for impacting into the child the cultural values and preparing him for future careers. In respect to that, it is obvious that, a child will never be successful in life the moment he is denied education, and since the state has decided to honor the right, then it should provide it on equal basis (Findlaw, 2010).

The court came to a decision that, segregation actually was detrimental to the African American children. It was even worse when the law had a provision of it because the moment it allowed for that, it meant that the blacks were inferior to the whites and when a child feels that he is being looked down upon, then he looses the motivation to learn. In addition, that segregation allowed by the law was actually deterring the development of the minds of the black children, retarding their education and preventing them from enjoying the benefits of being in a school that is racially integrated (Findlaw, 2010).

Chief justice delivered the ruling by saying that, the segregation was actually infringing on the rights of the black children and thus the court declared that black children should be admitted in the schools of their choice. The court also ordered that all the schools systems which used to discriminate on the racial lines should be adjusted to accommodate other races, and do away with the segregation system (Findlaw, 2010). The court judged that “the separate but equal doctrine was unconstitutional” and had no place in education.

However, the ruling was not received well by those who were segregationists. After the court delivered its ruling, they tried to prevent its implementation especially in the south. In fact, some states passed laws that would allow this segregation to continue but the federal government went ahead to challenge it in court (Robinson, 2005). This took much time since the federal government had to challenge state after state in court making the black children to wait for a very long time before being admitted in the white schools.

Some white schools went even further to come up with councils that would contest the desegregation process. One memorable event took place in the year 1957 in Arkansas when a mob made up of white people, threatened some black high school students and tried to prevent them from entering a white school, doing so for the first time. The president had to call for national guards to offer protection so that they could go to the school safely (Robinson, 2005).

How does this law relate to special education? The main reason for the decision that was made in the case was to ensure that education was provided to all citizens on equal basis. However, the implementation to achieve this equal opportunity to all was not satisfactory and thus it led to the adoption of disability education act which was meant to ensure that even the disabled children would have the same equal opportunities to education (Royster, nd).

This would actually ensure that everyone had an equal opportunity to education. This act however did not achieve that especially in regards to poor children from minority families. During classification of these children into disability categories, children from black communities tended to be overrepresented in some of them while others tended to be misclassified or isolated wrongly from those who were not disabled. Some were also exposed to curriculum of poor quality which was not promised by the act.

However, some progress towards equality could be seen (Royster, nd). In light to the Brown’s case decision, re-segregation has resurfaced over the years and most o the children from minority groups have been overrepresented in some categories of disability. Those who have been said to be disturbed emotionally and the ones who are disabled in learning are increasing. Many black students are being identified with special students needs and thus they are placed in special schools.

This means in other words that, special schools are being used as places to place people and not to offer services to them (Royster, nd). In conclusion, in regards to Brown’s case, there is so much to be done on implementing the ruling especially in relation to special education. It did away with segregation in white schools with the aim of achieving equal rights to all citizens but it was not conclusive enough in its ruling since it did not touch much on special education. This is why segregation is resurfacing in this area.


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