Haring Center

12. Inclusive Activism

Nowadays, inclusion is correlated with a community’s ideal atmosphere where everyone has the opportunity to contribute. In the early 1960s, inclusion was correlated with the civil rights movement.

Cecile Lindquist has been on the forefront of both movements toward full inclusion of children with disabilities in public schools. She worked at the Experimental Education Unit (EEU) for more than 30 years in admissions and community relations. Fifty years ago, however, is when Lindquist, along with Janet Taggart, Evelyn Chapman, Sally Puff and then-UW law students George Breck and Bill Dussalult, changed education for students with special needs throughout Washington state and the country.

They were members of Education for All, a group that met once a week for years to create a bill to present to lawmakers to pass that required the state to be responsible for the education of all students, including those with disabilities. They then spent the following years lobbying local government and service organizations to garner support.

Before 1970, most states used a permissible program system, where the responsibility of deciding if a child qualified for public education was at the discretion of the school district. As a result roughly 2,800 students per year went without education services from the public school system in Washington state alone. Parents with children with disabilities were also told by doctors and educators that their sons and daughters should be institutionalized.

Passing in 1971, this law was revolutionary for a number of reasons. It was the first education bill to be written and brought forth by parents and community members. It was also the first bill to classify the direction of each child’s education to be the responsibility of both professional educators and parents, creating an Individual Education Program (IEP). Because of the Education for All bill, parents could contest the focus of their child’s educational plan. Washington’s law was the first Zero Reject Law, meaning literally all children were entitled to an education.

The Education for All group was not finished, however, as Cecile and Janet were asked to help write a similar federal law. On June 18, 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act became the law of the land. This law, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), now ensures educational services to all children with disabilities.

Cecile and Janet continue to fight for the rights of children with disabilities. They founded the Northwest Center 50 years ago, which has grown to become the largest community service organization serving children and adults of all abilities in the Pacific Northwest.

Following in Cecile’s footsteps are activists Dr. Joel Domingo and Carrie Griffin Basas, who have both worked with the Washington State Office of Education Ombuds. Each former EEU parents, Carrie and Joel have dedicated their time to working with several groups improving public education and increasing services for people with disabilities.