Education

Loyalty Oaths in American Education

By Mark Walsh — February 29, 2008 1 min read

A public college in California has fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she altered her mandatory state Oath of Allegiance form, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting.

California State University-East Bay took the action against Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker graduate student who was teaching remedial math on the campus, because she inserted the word “nonviolently” in front of the oath’s language calling on her to swear or affirm that she would “support and defend” the state and U.S. constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the newspaper reports.

The oath is required of all public employees in California, including teachers and other K-12 school employees. The newspaper says Kearney-Brown had similarly modified the state oath twice before over the last 15 years when she took jobs with two different school districts. In those instances, the districts accepted her modifications without incident, the newspaper says.

But the attorney for California State-East Bay tells the Chronicle that modifying the oath “is very clearly not permissible.”

The case is a reminder that some states still employ such loyalty oaths, which had their heyday during the Cold War.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided a spate of cases involving loyalty oaths from the 1950’s through the early 1970’s, including several involving teachers.

In 1961, in Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction, the justices struck down a Florida law that required teachers and other public employees to swear that they had never lent their “aid, support, advice, counsel or influence to the Communist Party.”

In 1964, the court struck down a Washington state loyalty oath for teachers as “unduly vague” in the case of Baggett v. Bullitt.

But in 1972, in Cole v. Richardson , the court upheld a Massachusetts loyalty oath for public employees that addressed future versus past conduct and spoke in general terms about opposing the overthrow of the government.

I am no expert on the history of such oaths in American education. Perhaps readers can provide some more perspectives.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read