How the Supreme Court affects your classroom and your students
We should care who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court because court decisions affect our collective bargaining rights, the access our students have to the educational opportunities they deserve, and our children’s (and grandchildren’s) future. Justices may hold their appointments for life; that gives them ample time to impact the rights we hold dear—for better or worse.
Here are a few meaningful rulings for education and educators—from the recent decision reaffirming collective bargaining rights for public employees, to the 63-year-old decision ruling that “separate but equal” schools were unconstitutional. We’ve also included pending cases that will have far-reaching impacts when decisions are handed down.
Missouri’s state constitution, like those in many states, forbids any state financial aid from going—directly or indirectly—to a religious institution. The Supreme Court will decide whether state bans on contributions to religious institutions, like Missouri’s, violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause or the religious clauses of the First Amendment. A decision striking down Missouri’s constitutional provision could result in states being required to fund religious schools along with public schools.
G.G. is a transgender student who uses the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school without incident. But spurred on by community disdain for G.G, the school board adopted a policy requiring students to use only the bathroom associated with their gender assigned at birth. The Supreme Court will decide whether transgender students have a right under federal law to be treated consistent with their gender identity.
Both public employees and public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 ruling left intact the precedent established by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the 1977 case in which the court upheld the fair share fees that support collective bargaining.
Abigail Fisher applied and was denied admission to the University of Texas, and sued, saying the university had practiced racial discrimination. The court upheld the university’s race-conscious admissions program, which aims to matriculate a “critical mass” of minority students so that all may reap the benefits of a diverse student body, ruling that it is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Recognizing that their schools were highly segregated by race, Seattle assigned students to certain schools, using race as one factor in the decision, which resulted in less segregation and a narrower achievement gap. The Supreme Court held that public schools were prohibited from considering race as a factor in assignments, even if the school district wished to make up for past discrimination against people of color, because such consideration was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Barbara Grutter alleged that her Equal Protection rights were violated by the University of Michigan Law School’s attempt to gain a diverse student body that resulted in the denial of her application for admission. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that institutions of higher education have a legitimate interest in promoting diversity.
Once it became apparent that President Donald Trump would be nominating a justice to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s long-vacant seat on the Supreme Court, Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit was widely considered to be
Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit was “taking a breather” in the middle of a ski run when he heard that Justice Antonin Scalia had died. In a speech last April, Gorsuch added that he was “not embarrassed to