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Pierce V Society Of Sister Case Summary

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Public School Law - Dr. William Allan Kritsonis

Public School Law - Dr. William Allan Kritsonis

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  • 1. PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY PUBLIC SCHOOL LAW ADMN 5023 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Professor PARENT’S RIGHTS Submitted by Soul-Lana T. Singh June 21, 2009
  • 2. Soul-Lana Singh PARENT’S RIGHTS INTRODUCTION Parents are an essential partner in the education of their children. While constitutional law does not necessarily outline parental rights regarding education, Texas statutory law does. In fact, in 1995 the Texas Legislature amended the Texas Education Code to include parent rights and responsibilities. According to Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code §4.001, “Parents will be full partners with educators in the education of their children (Walsh, Kemerer, & Maniotis, 2007). The state cannot require all students to attend public schools, thus enabling the parents to right to choose where their children will be educated. Parents may send their children to public, private, or home schools. For the purpose of this report, we will present the case that relates to granting parents the right to choose which institution of learning their children will attend. The findings are intended to be informative and beneficial in understanding the precedent set forth for parent rights and responsibilities regarding the education of their wards. Case One United States Supreme Court PIERCE v. SOCIETY OF SISTERS 268 U.S. 510 LITIGANTS Plaintiffs-Appellants: Walter Pierce, Governor of Oregon Isaac H. Van Winkle, Attorney General of Oregon Defendant-Appellee: Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary Hill Military Academy BACKGROUND On November 7, 1922, the voters in Oregon passed an initiative to amend the Compulsory Education Act. The amendment was aimed at creating a common American culture by eliminating any dogmas that may negatively influence the established norms of American society. All children between the ages of eight and sixteen were required to attend public school. Children who were mentally disabled, lived three miles from the nearest road and had already completed the eighth grade were excluded from attending school. To enforce the law parents who did not send their children to public school were fined and faced 30 days in jail. The initiative also targeted parochial schools, specifically Catholic schools, because the thought was that such parochial schools hindered assimilation. Since the Society of Sisters worked with mainly orphaned and disadvantaged children they challenged the fairness of the Act. 2
  • 3. Soul-Lana Singh FACTS The Society of Sisters was an Oregon corporation, organized in 1880, with power to care for orphans, educate and instruct the youth, establish and maintain academies or schools, and acquire necessary real and personal property. The Society's bill alleges that the enactment conflicts with the right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training, the right of the child to influence the parents' choice of a school, the right of schools and teachers therein to engage in a useful business or profession, and is accordingly repugnant to the Constitution and void. And, further, that, unless enforcement of the measure is enjoined the corporation's business and property will suffer irreparable injury. DECISION JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court. The challenged Act, effective September 1, 1926, requires every parent, guardian or other person having control or charge or custody of a child between eight and sixteen years to send him "to a public school for the period of time a public school shall be held during the current year" in the district where the child resides, and failure so to do is declared a misdemeanor. The manifest purpose is to compel general attendance at public schools by normal children, between eight and sixteen, who have not completed the eighth grade. And without doubt enforcement of the statute would seriously impair, perhaps destroy, the profitable features of appellees' business and greatly diminish the value of their property. The Society's bill alleges that the enactment conflicts with the right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training, the right of the child to influence the parents' choice of a school, the right of schools and teachers therein to engage in a useful business or profession, and is accordingly repugnant to the Constitution and void. And, further, that, unless enforcement of the measure is enjoined the corporation's business and property will suffer irreparable injury. No question is raised concerning the power of the State reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare. DICTA Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control: as often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the State. The fundamental theory of liberty 3
  • 4. Soul-Lana Singh upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The 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 recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. IMPLICATIONS The Society’s suit against Pierce was successful in establishing that the parents and guardians of students had a right to choose their children’s educational setting. The ruling set the precedent for parents’ right to choose privately run schools and relieved parents from being forced, through penalties, to have their children educated in public schools. 4