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Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.

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Members of P.A.R.C. (Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children) consulted Dr. Gunnar Dybwad regarding the inadequate treatment children were receiving in a state institution. Dr. Dybwad noted that they (the Association for Retarded Children) had exhausted the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch; now it was time to try to Judicial Branch. He encouraged them to sue the state. Members of P.A.R.C. did not want to risk damaging good relations with members of the state, and decided against a law suit. During the following annual meeting, Mr. Haggerty, a P.A.R.C. board member, presented the story of a boy who had died in an institution, and whose body was left for days on a morgue table. Mr. Haggerty showed a slide of the boy's body, covered with bruises, while he told this story. Mr. Haggerty, himself a lawyer, explained that their struggle was not with a certain board of directors or state committee, but rather over a boy's life. The P.A.R.C. board agreed to proceed with the lawsuit. The case led to a consent decree, which established that all children must be educated, and that it was preferable to place children with mental retardation in public schools and public classes. The consent decree also focused on the rights of due process. The case emphasized that there is no child that is uneducable.

In addition, Judge Raymond Broderick stated that institutions represented a “monumental example of the unconstitutionality with respect to the habilitation of the retarded. As such it must be expeditiously replaced with appropriate community-based mental retardation programs and facilities designed to meet the individuals needs of each class member.” Although Judge Broderick’s judgment was not supported by the Supreme Court, this case is unique in that it challenged the very existence of institutions.

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