Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

Rowley Family Papers

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 31 Aug 2009

Biographical History

Amy June Rowley, born to deaf parents Nancy and Clifford Rowley, was highly intelligent and an excellent student, but without a sign-language interpreter in the classroom, she missed much of her teachers' instruction. Her parents sued the Hendrick Hudson Central School District and an interpreter was hired at state expense. The school district appealed and the case eventually went to the United States Supreme Court. Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Amy Rowley was the Court's first interpretation of what was then called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, "IDEA"). The Court ruled that Amy's success without an interpreter proved she did not need one to receive "an appropriate education." According to the law firm Whitted Cleary & Takiff, "The holdings in the Rowley case have become the standard of analysis for every subsequent special education case arising in the Federal and State courts."

The Rowleys' attorney, Michael Chatoff, was also deaf; the case marked the first time a deaf attorney had argued a case before the Supreme Court.

Amy Rowley went on to earn a Master's degree and became a clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the American Sign Language (ASL) Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Education.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Rowley Family Papers consist of correspondence, notes, court transcripts, clippings, and other material relating to the Rowley's Supreme Court case.

Chronology contains court papers, notes, and other material following the Rowleys' case from its origins with their local school district to the Supreme Court.

Personal files consists primarily of correspondence with various individuals and organizations -- attorneys, judges, hearing specialists, friends, supporters, doctors, and so on. Also included here are more than two hundred pages of witness testimony, some samples of Amy's schoolwork, material relating to Public Law 94-142 (Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA), and assorted other subjects. Almost all of this material remains in its original folders with the donor's original folder headings; folders labeled during processing are indicated by a title enclosed in square brackets [ ].

Miscellaneous contains material that was either unfoldered or unlabelled when the collection was received, and which was foldered and labeled by staff during processing. The bulk of this material consists of clippings from newspapers, newsletters, magazines, journals, and other publications. There are also four folders of TTY (sometimes called TDD) printouts of conversations, most involving R. C. Smith, the author of a book on the case, and Nancy or Cliff Rowley.

Arrangement of the Collection

Chronology files are in chronological order. The remaining two series are in alphabetical order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Other collections related to education of the disabled include the William Langner Papers and the Syracuse University Archives' Burton Blatt Papers.

Subject Headings


Rowley, Amy.


Deaf -- Education -- Law and legislation -- United States.
People with disabilities -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Research notes.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Rowley Family Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Clifford Rowley, 2004.

Table of Contents


Personal files