Pierce v. Soc'y of Sisters

268 U.S. 510, 45 S. Ct. 571 (1925)



Legislation may not unreasonably interfere with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. Rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state.


Appellee private primary schools filed actions against appellant public officials, challenging the constitutionality of the Compulsory Education Act (Act), 1922 Or. Laws § 5259, under U.S. Const. amend. XIV and seeking to enjoin its enforcement. The Act mandated that all normal children aged 8 to 16 years old attend public school. Appellees asserted that their enrollments were declining as a result of the Act. The district court entered an order enjoining appellants from enforcing the Act and appellants sought review in consolidated appeals.


Can school authorities, by law, have the right to exclusive control over the list of studies to be taken by students in the public schools?




The court affirmed, holding that the inevitable result of the enforcement of the Act was the destruction of appellees' primary schools, and maybe all other private primary schools for normal children within the state.

The Act unreasonably restricted the liberty of parents and guardians to choose the mode of upbringing and education of their children. Although appellees were juridical entities, they could claim constitutional protection for their businesses and properties. They sought protection against a real threat of injury from the arbitrary, unreasonable, and unlawful interference of their patrons.

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