The Public Interest

Science, politics, and the IQ controversy

Mark Snyderman & Stanley Rothman

Spring 1986

IN NOVEMBER 1971, the parents of seven black children brought suit against the state of California in federal district court, claiming that their children had been incorrectly placed in classes for the educable mentally retarded (EMR) on the basis of culturally biased IQ tests. The plaintiffs—under the instigation, and with the assistance, of the Bay Area Association of Black Psychologists, the Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, among others—presented as evidence of racial discrimination the fact that black children were represented in EMR classes in San Francisco in numbers far in excess of their proportion in the school district as a whole; the parents also claimed that the challenged intelligence tests were the primary determinant of EMR placement.

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