School Business Affairs February 2020

34 FEBRUARY 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS legal issues Key quotes from major Supreme Court cases that affect K–12 education. Quotes from the Top 12 Supreme Court Cases on Education Law By Charles J. Russo, J.D., Ed.D. C ompiling a “top 10,” expanded to 12, list of anything, includ- ing memorable quotes from key Supreme Court cases in education law, can be fraught with controversy. While most practitioners of education law would likely agree with the majority of quotes and cases identified here, there are some over which reasonable minds could certainly dis- agree. This is good, as it can lead to conver- sations about the underlying legal issues in today’s schools. With this caveat in mind, this column highlights key quotes from major Supreme Court cases, with two from a pair of the Justices’ most significant judgments: Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas (1954) and Tinker v. Des Moines Indepen- dent Community School District ( 1969). These two cases, in particular, played transformational roles in shaping the land- scape of American K–12 education and the larger society. Except for Brown , the most important education law case of all time, the disputes are listed chronologically rather than in order of significance to avoid further differ- ences of opinion. Key Supreme Court Quotes 1. Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas (1954) After acknowledging that “[t]oday, educa- tion is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments” (p. 493) the Justices emphasized that “in the field of pub- lic education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (p. 495). Brown opened the door for equal educa- tional opportunities for African-American children by ordering an end to racial seg- regation in public schools. Brown was a catalyst for a wide array of societal changes, affecting the rights of women with the enactment of Title IX in 1972 and of chil- dren with disabilities in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), adopted in 1975. The Court addressed the rights of children of Mexican descent in Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, Colo- rado (1973). 2. Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (1925) This case is noteworthy because in it the Court reasoned that while state officials have the authority to supervise nonpublic schools, whether secular or religiously affili- ated, they cannot subject them to greater regulations than those applicable to pub- lic schools. At issue in Pierce was a state law from Oregon that essentially would have obli- gated parents to send their children to public school in order to satisfy the state’s compulsory attendance law. In its ruling, the Court upheld the right of private schools to exist and for parents to govern their chil- dren’s education. The Pierce Court acknowledged the role of parents in directing the education of their children, observing that “[t]he child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recog- nize and prepare him for additional obliga- tions” (p. 535). Advocates of school choice often rely on Pierce when making their cases for greater public funding. 3. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) At issue was whether the Supreme Court should overturn a decision it reached two years earlier in Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940) in which the Justices rejected the challenge from Jehovah’s Witnesses and BBOURDAGES/STOCK.ADOBE.COM