Cases Before the Supreme Court
Following are descriptions of the 11 cases related to education and youth that are on the list of 102 cases already accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court for its term beginning this week. Docket numbers, which should be used to identify the cases in checking their status, are given in parentheses. The Court is in the process of selecting from a list of 872 other cases the additional ones it will hear this term.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State (80-327). What right does an organization dedicated to the principle of separation of church and state have to challenge the transfer of government property to a church-related school? The question arises in a case involving a transfer of surplus federal land, buildings, and equipment from the old Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to Valley Forge Christian College. The property, formerly part of the Valley Forge Army Hospital, was deeded to the college in return for its commitment to use the property in a manner beneficial to the public.
Widmar v. Vincent (80-689). In 1977, an evangelical student group from the University of Missouri at Kansas City was denied the right to use any part of the campus as a gathering place because the university concluded that the group's meetings violated the regulation prohibiting religious teaching and religious worship on campus. Some of the constitutional questions raised in this case are: Is it a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to allow a recognized student group to hold regular worship services or to have religious teaching sessions on the grounds of a tax-supported institution of higher education? Does the First Amendment free-speech clause protect voluntary, non-religious speech by private individuals on public property to the same extent as speech dealing with secular subjects?
North Haven Board of Education v. Bell; Trumbull Board of Education v. U.S. Department of Education and Linda Potz (80-986). In this case, two Connecticut school boards challenge the authority of the old Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (hew) to issue regulations prohibiting sex discrimination in the employment practices of schools that receive federal aid.
North Haven v. Bell was initiated when the board refused to supply information on its policies for hiring, leaves of absence, seniority, and tenure for an hew investigation into alleged discriminatory practices.
North Haven asserts that hew had no right to regulate employment practices under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Trumbull also grew out of an hew investigation. Linda Potz, the only female guidance counselor in the public school system's junior high schools, charged in 1977 that she was treated and dismissed unfairly, in violation of Title IX. The hew investigation found the school district in violation of Title IX. But the district contends that hew lacked the authority to enact regulation or to seek remedies for the type of discrimination alleged by Ms. Potz.
EDUCATION OF ILLEGAL ALIENS
Texas v. United States (80-1934). This case examines the state's obligation to provide free public education to the children of illegal aliens. A 1975 Texas law permits school districts to charge tuition for such children; the law has been held unconstitutional by lower federal courts. The 14th Amendment prohibits a state from denying equal protection of the laws to "any person within its jurisdiction." The question is whether undocumented or illegal aliens are to be considered "persons."
Plyler v. Doe (80-1538). This case is related to Texas v. United States; they will be heard together. Plyler questions the validity of the Texas law denying free schooling to illegal aliens.
Youngberg, Superintendent, Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Romeo (80-1429). A profoundly mentally retarded person was commited to Pennhurst State School and Hospital in July 1974 at the request of his mother, who was no longer able to care for him at home. While at Pennhurst, the patient was injured on numerous occasions. The injuries were both self-inflicted and the results of attacks by other residents of the institution, mostly in retaliation against his aggressive behavior. Allegations were made that officials of the hospital had shackled or otherwise physically restrained the patient to a bed or chair. The case involves the right of institutionalized mentally retarded people to receive treatment, to be free of restraints, and to be protected from harm.
FREEDOM TO RESTRICT SPEECH
Princeton University v. Schmid (80-1576). The distribution of political literature on the Princeton campus by someone who was neither a student nor affiliated with a campus organization brings into question a private university's right to determine, without state interference, what activities by strangers will be permitted on campus and under what circumstances.
Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside (80-1681). In February 1978 the village of Hoffman Estates passed an ordinance licensing the sale of "drug paraphernalia" to adults and banning their sale to minors. The ordinance defines the licensed goods as "any items, effect, paraphernalia, accessory, or thing which is designed or marketed for use with illegal cannabis or drug." The ordinance was aimed partly at Flipside Records, a shop that sells records, tapes, clothing, jewelry, and novelty items, though it has not acknowledged selling "drug-related paraphernalia." The issue is whether the language of the ordinance is so vague or overbroad as to render the definition unconstitutional.
Ralston v. Robinson (80-2049). In 1971, a jury of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia convicted John Carrol Ralston, then 17 years old, of second-degree murder. Ralston was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment under the Youth Corrections Act (yca). While in prison he committed a crime and was this time sentenced to serve his prison term as an adult without yca protection. The case before the Supreme Court asks whether the offender must be treated as a yca offender for the remainder of his sentence. The case could affect all statutes ensuring the protection of juvenile delinquents who serve prison terms, the Youth Corrections Act being partly designed to keep youths segregated from hardened criminals.
Santosky v. Kramer, Commissioner of Ulster City Department of Social Services (80-5899). The case involves three children who spent most of their lives in a foster home after being neglected--or beaten--by their parents. This case questions whether parents and children are afforded due process by a New York State Family Court Act that permits the termination of parental rights based upon "a fair preponderance of evidence" rather than clear and convincing evidence of parental neglect.
Mills v. Habluetzel (80-6298). The suit questions the validity of a state family code that denies an illegitimate child the right to sue for parental child support.