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10 Landmark Court Cases

(Chronological Order)
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
ISSUE: Is the race-based segregation of children into separate but equal public
schools constitutional, or does it deprive the minority group of equal protections?
RULING: No. The courts cited the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth
Amendment to justify separate but equal schools are unconstitutional.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
ISSUE: Does school-sponsored nondenominational prayer in public schools
violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
RULING: Yes. The purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent government
interference with religion.
Pickering v. Board of Education (1968)
ISSUE: Do school officials violate the First Amendment by terminating a teacher
for writing a letter to the editor that discusses important matters of public
concern?
RULING: Yes. Public school teachers are still entitled to their First Amendment
rights. A balance must be struck between interests of the teacher as a citizen and
the interests of the employer. The teacher should make it known that he/she is
speaking as a citizen.
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)
ISSUE: Are students allowed freedom of speech according to the First
Amendment?
RULING: A district court ruled for the school, saying student demonstrations
could disrupt the learning environment. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned this
decision and ruled that as long as the demonstrations were nonviolent and did not
disrupt the learning environment, students dont shed their constitutional rights at
the school house gates.
Goss v. Lopez (1975)
ISSUE: Can a school suspend students without having a hearing?
RULING: No. Students are entitled to a due process hearing to determine if the
accusation has occurred.
Ingraham v. Wright (1977)
ISSUE: Can schools use corporal punishment on students without a hearing?
RULING: Yes. The Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment
applies to criminals. The court admitted the delicate balance that schools must
walk to maintain the rights of the individual students and the need of school
officials to maintain order to protect the group.
New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)
ISSUE: Are schools required to have a search warrant to search students?
RULING: No. School officials must have reasonable cause to justify search and
seizure on a student in order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment.
Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser (1986)
ISSUE: Are students protected under the First Amendment for giving lewd
speeches?
RULING: No. Schools must balance societys interest in teaching the students
socially appropriate behavior and the freedom to advocate for unpopular and
controversial issues in schools. Here the students rights were outweighed by the
disruptions the speech was causing.
Vernonia School District v. Acton (1995)
ISSUE: Can school districts use drug testing on athletes?
RULING: Yes. The schools use of drug testing on athletes was reasonable under
the Fourth Amendment. The court noted that this does not give schools the
authority to use random drug testing for all students.
Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe (2000)
ISSUE: Can schools allow student-led prayer before football games?
RULING: No. This practice was deemed unconstitutional and in violation of the
Establishment Cause. The school exercised some control over the student-let
speech and therefore was responsible to maintain a separation of church and state.