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WE WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL! by Maryann Cocca-Leffler


The Fight for Disability Rights

by Maryann Cocca-Leffler & Janine Leffler ; illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-8075-3518-9
Publisher: Whitman

Co-author Leffler, who has cerebral palsy, explains how children with disabilities won the right to attend public school.

At age 3, Leffler entered public school, where—like “other kids with disabilities all around America”—she learned and played “side by side” with her friends. But, she learned, “it hadn’t always been that way.” In the early 1970s, public schools “said NO to millions of children who wanted to go to school”; disabled children were segregated in special schools, attended inferior classes, or simply stayed home. In an eye-opening double-page spread packed with racially diverse, cartoon-style children, a child notes, “There’s about 1,000 kids on this page”—a fraction of the 8 million disabled children across the United States being denied an education. Drawing on the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case banning racial school segregation, the determined parents of seven children with disabilities—all of whom present as kids of color—filed a class-action lawsuit: Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia. Speech-balloon dialogue presents parents’ pleas, school authorities’ opposition, and lawyers’ arguments. Finally, on Aug. 1,1972, Judge Joseph C. Waddy ruled that “children with disabilities must be given a free public education,” spurring similar federal court cases. Illustrator and co-author Cocca-Leffler warmly depicts figures with an array of skin tones; some children are blind, and some use wheelchairs. Leffler presents White.

An accessible introduction to a little-known but life-changing victory for disabled children.

(note, timeline, authors' note, attorney's note, sources) (Informational picture book. 5-8)