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Erin Clemmer

Board of Education vs. Pico


Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico. Oyez.
Retreived November 15, 2017, from http://www.oyez.org/cases/1981/80-

School board members attended a conference sponsored by Parents of

New York United (PONYU), in which they obtained a list of books that the
politically conservative group found to be objectionable.
Upon returning to the schools, the school board found that nine of the
listed books were in their libraries and included in their curriculum.
They then appointed a book review committee to determine whether the
books were, objectionable.
Once books were labeled objectionable, school board members
(plaintiffs) fought to remove subjectively labeled, objectionable books
from the school library and especially classroom curriculums.
The defendants, Pico and several other students at the high school and
junior high school, brought litigation in the District Court, seeking injunctive
relief from the banning of the books.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution includes a right to

receive information. In an educational setting, a students right to
receive various available viewpoints cannot be suppressed or limited by
school officials simply because school officials politically disagree with the
information presented.

The District Court granted a summary judgment in favor of the school

An Appeals Court overturned the summary judgment and granted an
injunction on behalf of the students and Pico.
After, the school board then filed a petition with the Supreme Court of
the United States which granted certiorari (a review of a lower courts
The Supreme Court found that the Constitution, through the First
Amendment, does not permit suppression of ideas, therefore ruling in
favor of the defendants (Pico).

This case explores whether or not the First Amendment of the Constitution
places limits on members of a local school board in regards to their
discretion to remove certain books from the schools library based on
subjective moral or political dissonance.


Although I agree with the courts decision, the ruling is narrow. The
majority of the Supreme Court held that a students right to receive
available information could not be suppressed by school officials who
might disagree morally or politically. However, the court also noted that if
the information was not already available (i.e. if the books were not
already in the library or classrooms), then students would not be deprived
of any particular rights or suppressed of any information.
Although this currently does not affect me as I teach kindergarten, if I
were to teach in an upper grade, I would want to be able to use any
books at my disposal to teach and enrich my students.
Because the decision is so subjective, I am concerned that books
discussing diversity could potentially be banned if the Supreme Court
were to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.
School board members do have a vested interest in the moral
foundations of their students and the curriculum in which they are
subjected to. However, The First Amendment far transcends any power
held by a local school board.