Bd. of Educ. v. Pico

457 U.S. 853, 102 S. Ct. 2799 (1982)



The States and local school boards have discretion in matters of education that must be exercised in a manner that comports with the transcendent imperatives of the First Amendment.


After the school board members attended a conference in which a list of objectionable books was circulated, the school board directed that certain books be removed from school libraries, characterizing them as "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy." The students sued, claiming the removal of books violated their First Amendment rights. The district court entered summary judgment for the school board and members, but the court of appeals reversed and remanded for trial. 


Did the removal of certain books from school libraries constitute a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights?




In a plurality opinion, three justices were of the opinion that students had a First Amendment right to receive ideas and information as a necessary predicate to their meaningful exercise of the rights of speech, press, and political freedom. Another justice concurring in the judgment wrote that the state had no authority to deny access to ideas for political reasons, while a fifth justice concurring in the judgment did not want to reach the First Amendment question on an incomplete record.

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