Law & Courts

Education and the Supreme Court: The 2004-05 Term

July 12, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s pending retirement perhaps overshadows any single case in the U.S. Supreme Court term that ended June 27. Her role as the often-decisive fifth vote was underscored by the only case that dealt directly with education, a Title IX ruling for which Justice O’Connor wrote the opinion for a slim majority. Three other cases were of particular interest to educators during the 2004-05 term.

Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education (Case No. 02-1672)

The high court ruled 5-4 that teachers and coaches who suffer reprisals for complaining about illegal sex discrimination against their students may sue under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law that prohibits such discrimination in federally financed education programs. Writing for the majority, Justice O’Connor said that if retaliation against whistleblowers such as the Birmingham, Ala., girls’ basketball coach who had brought the case were not prohibited under the law, “Title IX’s enforcement scheme would unravel.”

McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (No. 03-1693)
Van Orden v. Perry (No. 03-1500)

In cases watched by educators facing similar controversies, the court ruled 5-4 in McCreary County against the display of the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky county courthouses. The majority said the recent-vintage displays were motivated primarily by a desire to advance religion and thus violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against a government establishment of religion. In Van Orden, a different 5-4 court allowed the display of a stone tablet of the commandments that has been on the grounds of the Texas state Capitol since 1961.

Smith v. City of Jackson, Miss. (No. 03-1160)

In a 5-3 ruling, the court held that workers covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967—those 40 or older—do not need to prove that their employers deliberately intended to harm them to win a claim. The court ultimately ruled against a group of police officers who challenged a pay plan that gave larger raises to younger officers, but it concluded that the ADEA authorized such disparate-impact suits. Some school law experts said the ruling could be a double-edged sword for districts, exposing them to greater risk from disparate-impact claims filed by older workers, but allowing more leeway in giving newer teachers larger raises to combat attrition.

Roper v. Simmons (No. 03-633)

The court ruled 5-4 to invalidate the death penalty for those who were under 18 at the time of their crimes. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that both a national consensus and research on the adolescent brain make it “misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult.” The decision effectively commuted the death sentences of 72 convicts across the country.

SOURCE: Education Week


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.
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Overturns 'Roe v. Wade’; States Can Ban Abortion
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents.
7 min read
A celebration outside the Supreme Court, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Washington. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Law & Courts School Groups Worry as Supreme Court Recognizes Right to Carry Handguns in Public
In a 6-3 decision over a New York state law, the court says little about schools as 'sensitive places' where guns can be prohibited.
6 min read
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court in 2021.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court in 2021.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Strikes Down Maine's Exclusion of Religious Schools From Tuition-Aid Program
The justices hold that barring "sectarian" schools from the program for towns without public high schools violates the First Amendment.
7 min read
Image of the Supreme Court.
Law & Courts A Charter School Made Girls Wear Skirts to Promote 'Chivalry.' An Appeals Court Says No
A federal appeals court said the charter school's policy violates the Constitution and that Title IX applies to dress codes.
4 min read
Scales of justice and Gavel on wooden table and Lawyer or Judge working with agreement in Courtroom, Justice and Law concept.
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock