Mills v. District of Columbia Board of Education - American EducationA landmark 1972 class-action suit that established the constitutional right of handicapped children to free public school education. Together with another case, PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION FOR RETARDED CHILDREN V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Mills opened the way toward the establishment of zero-rejection policies of American public schools. The suit was filed on behalf of seven disabled children of normal intelligence who had been prevented from enrolling in local public schools. The decision not only ordered the district board of education to admit the children and provide them with free, unfettered education, it also ordered the board to advertise the availability of such free education to all disabled children.
Mills, along with the “PARC” decision a year earlier in Pennsylvania, effectively stripped public school systems of the right to pick and choose their students and reject those they decide they cannot or will not educate. In 1971, the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) had sued the state to force it to open public schools and offer free education to all the state’s children, including the retarded. Mills and PARC set the stage for Congress to pass the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, making it mandatory for all United States public schools to provide free education for all children, regardless of their handicaps. The act provided federal funds to ease the burden of local communities for such responsibilities.