What Landmark Educational Legal Cases Formed K-12 Education

K-12 education refers to the primary and secondary education. It is a public education system composed of thirteen grades, from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. It is compulsory because children upon reaching the compulsory school age are required by law to attend school. The compulsory school age ranges from age six to eight, depending on the state. Before its implementation, education was localized and only available to the wealthy and privileged. Before the passing of any compulsory school attendance laws, education was localized. By the year 1852, the first statewide system of education was passed by Horace Mann. By 1918, all children were required to receive an education.

The present public education system is a product of an evolution of laws and court rulings recognizing the need for compulsory education. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Meyer vs. Nebraska that in terms of educating a child, the preferences of the parents are constitutionally protected and more important than those of the state. Parents have the right to educate their child as they saw fit. A law prohibiting the teaching of modern foreign languages to grade school children was struck down for violating the due process clause.

In the case of Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court held that the children are not mere creatures of the state. States cannot force children to go to public school in compliance with a compulsory education law if that will violate their religious convictions. Parents are free to send their children to private schools to satisfy the compulsory attendance requirement. In Wisconsin vs. Yoder, Amish parents homeschooled their children after the eight grade and removed them from the public schools. They believe that if they keep their children in school, it will expose them to the evils of the world. The court upheld the right of the parents to teach religion to their children and to decide on how to educate them. The court, in this case, allowed homeschooling based on religious reasons. It also recognized the legality of homeschooling as a form of complying with laws requiring compulsory school attendance.

In the case of Plyler vs. Doe, a law denying the funding for the education of illegal aliens was declared unconstitutional. Simultaneously, the court also declared illegal a school's attempt to extract tuition fees from them to compensate the loss of state funding. The court ruled that a state cannot deny free public education to illegal aliens.

In the case of Farrington vs. Tokushige, a law was enacted regulating the hours, curriculum and textbooks of schools that taught in the native language of the students. The court held that the law was unreasonable and parents had the right to control how their children were educated. Any interference or restriction unrelated to any rational state goal must be struck down. Likewise, in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the court declared as unconstitutional any law establishing separate public schools for black and white students. In this case, an African-American student had to walk five miles to school that enrolled minority students despite having a white school across her home. The court reiterated that if a state provides an opportunity for education in the public schools, such opportunity is a right that must be available to all in equal terms. Although such school may appear to be equal in terms of physical facilities, the mere segregation of the students based solely on race already deprives children of minority groups' equal educational opportunities. The public education system has no place for the separate but equal doctrine. The mentioned landmark educational cases paved the way for what is now known as K-12 education system.

The state takes an active interest in education. It recognizes the significant role it plays in nation building. Through the K-12 education system, children who may have less in life are assured of a quality education.

More On Specific Information On Landmark Education Court Case

The Scopes 'Monkey Trial'

  1. BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)