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Pierce v Society of Sister Case Summary

Pierce v Society of Sister Case Summary

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School Law, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis
School Law, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: William Allan Kritsonis on Nov 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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William Allan Kritsonis, PhDProfessor
PARENT’S RIGHTSINTRODUCTIONParents are an essential partner in the education of their children. While constitutionallaw does not necessarily outline parental rights regarding education, Texas statutory law does. In
Soul-Lana Singhfact, in 1995 the Texas Legislature amended the Texas Education Code to include parent rightsand 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 toright 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 theright to choose which institution of learning their children will attend. The findings are intendedto be informative and beneficial in understanding the precedent set forth for parent rights andresponsibilities regarding the education of their wards.Case OneUnited States Supreme CourtPIERCEv.SOCIETY OF SISTERS268 U.S. 510LITIGANTSPlaintiffs-Appellants: Walter Pierce, Governor of OregonIsaac H. Van Winkle, Attorney General of OregonDefendant-Appellee: Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and MaryHill Military AcademyBACKGROUND
On November 7, 1922, the voters in Oregon passed an initiative to amend the CompulsoryEducation Act. The amendment was aimed at creating a common American culture by eliminating anydogmas that may negatively influence the established norms of American society. All children betweenthe 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 fromattending school. To enforce the law parents who did not send their children to public school were finedand 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 Sistersworked with mainly orphaned and disadvantaged children they challenged the fairness of the Act.
FACTSThe Society of Sisters was an Oregon corporation, organized in 1880, with power to carefor orphans, educate and instruct the youth, establish and maintain academies or schools, andacquire necessary real and personal property. The Society's bill alleges that the enactment2
Soul-Lana Singhconflicts with the right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriatemental 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 isaccordingly repugnant to the Constitution and void. And, further, that, unless enforcement of themeasure is enjoined the corporation's business and property will suffer irreparable injury.DECISIONJUSTICE 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 sendhim "to a public school for the period of time a public school shall be held during the currentyear" in the district where the child resides, and failure so to do is declared a misdemeanor. Themanifest purpose is to compel general attendance at public schools by normal children, betweeneight 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' businessand greatly diminish the value of their property.The Society's bill alleges that the enactment conflicts with the right of parents to chooseschools 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 toengage in a useful business or profession, and is accordingly repugnant to the Constitution andvoid. And, further, that, unless enforcement of the measure is enjoined the corporation's businessand 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 patrioticdisposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and thatnothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.DICTAUnder 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 theupbringing and education of children under their control: as often heretofore pointed out, rightsguaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonablerelation to some purpose within the competency of the State. The fundamental theory of libertyupon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State tostandardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. Thechild is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have theright, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.IMPLICATIONS3

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