Chapter 9: Implementation of Consent Decree
18:17:36: 13 - 18:24:10:10 LS: The implementation of this was staggering. You had initially mapped out about a year to both find children who needed to be served of which there were literally thousands, perhaps 11,000 between the community and institutional settings who were being underserved, I believe that effort was called COMPIL...
TG: Yes. Commonwealth plan to identify, locate, and evaluate, thank you.
LS: that was followed by COMPET...
TG: Yes, the Commonwealth plan for the education and training of .
LS: Why did the implementation have to happen so quickly?
TG: Well, this was enormous institutional change. Uh, small 'I', institutional change, uh, in the schools, and in the expectations of all of the actors in schools, uh, and it needed to be done with care. As Thurgood Marshall said at the close of his historical analysis in the City of Cliburn Texas v. the Cliburn Texas Living Center, "Prejudice once let loose is not easily cabined". And the job of overcoming the oppression which these laws had imposed at the start of the century required a careful and thoughtful attention at every step of the way. To bring people in, to help them see what could be done, and how it could effectively be done, and, and yes, so it was done, and it took the investment of very many people across the Commonwealth, in the schools, and outside of the schools. Marlene Burdaugh wrote that little yellow book that you alluded to earlier which was the handbook for PARC shared with all the school districts, telling them what was going on and how to proceed to identify, locate and evaluate. I lost the bet of an ice cream soda with the director of the education of disabled kids in Pittsburgh. A wonderful woman who said, "I understand, Tom, why you asked the Court to take three diverse school, districts and require that they go door-to-door, so that we could compare what they found with what the other methods of locating children would produce but", she said, "I know, I know who and where each child with a disability is in Pittsburgh.." And, and so we bet and ice cream soda and so she went door-to-door anyway, and it turned out that the numbers (claps) were perfectly matched. In the other two school districts we found some more, and across the Commonwealth of course we found tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of children, and across the country, now, the numbers are very large indeed as it continues. Part of implementation, it's worth mentioning, because it's a testimony to the dimensions of the Movement, very - two things - I'll do them backwards in time. Very early on, after the October orders, the preliminary orders, the leadership of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare and in particular the Commissioner of Education and his assistant Deputy and his assistant Commissioner of Education for Disability Education understood that this was going to require enormous careful and well informed change in the schools. And they realized that most teachers, but for families, had not been schooled, had not been trained to teach children with disabilities. They also realized that there were a whole lot of departments of education in universities around the country who had been developing the state of the art and who with the organizations in the Movement, the ARCs or the UCPs or the Easter Seals, or what have you had been trying out stuff and keeping track of what worked and so on. And so Ed Martin, whose the guy at the ATW in charge called several people at the universities [ Nora Serian ] at the university of Washington and Lou Brown at the University of Wisconsin and uh another at the University of Kansas and another at the University of Richmond, Commonwealth etc., and said, "hey, can't you help?" to prepare and support teacher in doing this. And so they founded an organization initially called by the wonderful Old Testament acronym of ASEPH, the American Association for the Education and Training of the severely and profoundly handicapped, later re-baptized as TASH. Which became and had become one of the most influential, powerful indeed, organizations in the Disability Movement. Originally it was all professionals. Teachers learning, and teachers from the university campuses by and large, teaching. And then family members came in, and then as the Movement of disabled people broke out in the mid '70's, people with disabilities themselves. The implementation was a movement itself.
18:24:11:12 - 18:27:04:26 TG: It helped that the PARC case was followed by another 37cases around the country. The first one after PARC was in the District of Colombia, the next one after PARC and DC was in New Orleans. There was one loss, I think, in a state court in Ohio. But all of those cases by and large in Federal Courts, overwhelmingly in Federal Courts, won, to the same effect. And the other story I was going to tell you along with calling into being the TASH organization, the day after the preliminary orders on October 8 of 1971, were entered by the Court, the New York Times carried a front page report, uh, of those orders of the case and of the opening of schools to retarded children. Philadelphia had a very active New York Times Bureau and he had followed the case. Ten days after that front page story, there appeared an editorial which said the United state Congress take note. Why don't you require what has happened in Philadelphia at the hands of a three-judge Federal court of all of the states? That editorial happened because Jim Wilson, the President of Pennsylvania Association for Retarded [children] Citizens commuted every day from Philadelphia to New York where he was an important figure on the business staff, the commercial side of the New York Times and the editor of the editorial page was a person with whom he occasionally had lunch or drinks. And he, and the front page brought it to his attention and within three months of those preliminary orders in both houses of the United States Congress members of both parties acting together had introduced legislation that ultimately became Section 504 of the rehabilitation Act and the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act.
18:27:05:20 - 18:29:37:10 LS: Tom was there anything in the PARC case that you had hoped to accomplish but did not?
TG: No, but saying that, one has to say that prejudice once let loose is not easily cabined, as Thurgood Marshall said. And as any family member who may chance to see or hear our conversation here today and every person with disability who has worked their way through the schools knows, prejudice once let loose is not easily cabined. It is a battle, from day to day, from season to season, from year to year. Happily, it is a battle that has some shape because of the cases and the statute that has explicit purposes and values which the schools are required to meet. So all of us now engaged in these battles child by child to bring it all to life, have some things that we can use. And we have a wide network of people in the Movement who had been through it themselves, and are going through it now and they help each other and all the rest. There is in the presence of historic discrimination no silver bullet. There is the emphasis to be placed upon the values of equality and the facts which make equality possible. There is enormous comfort and support as we try to make it real, child by child. And we have the framework in which to conduct those battles. But understand - it is a battle - always. It takes a serious, informed human investment and it takes some company and support to make it happen for each child in each classroom.
More Interview Chapters
- Early Career and Association with PARC
- PARC Approaches Gilhool
- Right to Education Case
- Brother's institutionalization influenced Tom's thoughts on Right to Education Case
- Right to Education Heard in Federal Court
- Media and Reaching Diverse Audiences
- Fundamental Shift for the Educational System
- Meaningful Provisions in Consent Decree
- YOU ARE HERE: Implementation of Consent Decree
- Impact of Right to Education Case on Tom's Career
About Thomas K. Gilhool
Born: 1938, Ardmore, PA
Attorney, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education 1987-1989
Resides in Philadelphia PA and California
PARC Consent Decree, Civil Rights, Institutions, Advocacy, Self-advocacy, Families