Brown v. Board of Education - Court Term Paper

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Brown v. Board of Education - Court Case Analysis

This paper presents an in-depth examination of a famous court case involving an aspect of school law. The writer explores the landmark decision handed down in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case and discusses how it forever changed American public schools. There was one source used to complete this paper.

It was only a few decades ago when students were segregated by color as well as ability. Those born white received the best school buildings, textbooks and supplies to use in their educational path. Those born black however were relegated to schools designated as "Black Schools." They were given the textbooks the White schools no longer needed and their supplies were substandard at best. One of the most famous court cases in the field of education is the Brown vs. Board of Education case in which the Supreme Court ruled on school law, as it pertains to the United States constitution. The events that case launched changed the way public education in America is delivered from the racial issues to the special education needs. While it is an older case, it remains the foundational base from which thousands of subsequent cases have been measured.

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Term Paper on Brown v. Board of Education - Court Assignment

The case began when a little girl named Linda Brown had to walk a mile through railroad switch yards to get to her designated Black school when her family resided less than seven blocks from a neighborhood White school. When Brown's father tried to enroll her in the White school he was denied the ability and when he went to the district itself it ignored his concerns. Brown then took his case to the NAACP. At the NAACP the legal department became very excited. It had waited to find a case that it could use to challenge the national segregation of students but had a hard time finding parents willing to be on the front line. Oliver Brown had no fear and the NAACP launched on his behalf what would be one of the biggest court cases in the history of American education. By the time the case got to court 12 other Black families had signed on, making the suit a class action event (Brown vs. Board of Education (http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/early-civilrights/brown.html).

The defendants argued that school law mandated schools be equal, but believed the districts had a right to make them separate but equal. Rather than pick apart the fallacy that Black and White schools were in any way treated equally by the funding bodies of government, the plaintiffs argued that sending Blacks to schools designed for Blacks sent a message to every Black and White student in America that Black children were inferior to White children and that this practice and message made the schools inherently unequal which was in violation of the school law mandating equality.

A if the colored children are denied the experience in school of associating with white children, who represent 90% of our national society in which these colored children must live, then the colored child's curriculum is being greatly curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be equal under segregation (Brown vs. Board of Education (http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/early-civilrights/brown.html)."

The school board then argued that segregation was a fact of life outside of the schools therefore the district was actually doing the Black children a service by providing them with a separate education in keeping with the national division of color.

The board also argued that segregated schools were not necessarily harmful to Black children; great African-Americans such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver had overcome more than just segregated schools to achieve what they achieved (Brown vs. Board of Education (http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/early-civilrights/brown.html)."

The initial ruling came down in favor of the school board citing a previous case of Plessy v. Ferguson in which the judges felt segregation was legal.

The NAACP took the case to the appeals division of the Supreme Court where it was joined by cases from three other states regarding school segregation.

The judges could not reach a decision following the first round of arguments and agreed to hear another round, at which time they rendered a landmark decision that forever changed the face of American education (Brown vs. Board of Education (http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/early-civilrights/brown.html).

The Decision

By unanimous vote the panel ruled that there was no place for "separate but equal" when it came to the nation's public school system.

The ruling judged that the previous school laws allowing "separate but equal" schools in which students were racially divided actually violated the 14th amendment of the United States constitution therefore the practice was illegal on a federal level.

The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision did not abolish segregation in other public areas, such as restaurants and restrooms, nor did it require desegregation of public schools by a specific time. It did, however, declare the permissive or mandatory segregation that existed in 21 states unconstitutional."

At the time the case was filed there were several states that prohibited the segregation of schools, while other states required it. This also presented issues as children were being segregated depending on which state they happened to be born in or live in with their families.

This case was the case that eventually paved the path for special education students to be taken out of the classrooms down the hall, and included as often as possible in the classrooms with regular education peers. It was the case from which schools were told they could no longer ignore disabled students, Black students, or female students. It was the case that provided the foundation for every student to be treated equally and fairly for the first time since the nation's public school system had been developed.

The Strength of the Case

One of the strengths of the case was the fact that there was a man named on the case. In the 1950's single or divorced mothers were not well respected and women in general were generally viewed as less capable or important then men were viewed. This case had a father at the front of the line and it gave pause to the judges who heard it.

The plaintiffs took a risk and it paid off when they decided not to argue about the inferiority of Black schools when compared to White schools. They could have testified to many hundreds of examples of Black students receiving textbooks that White schools threw away, buildings in states of disrepair and funding non-existent. Instead they chose to focus on a single, constitutional element, was it fair to make Black children attend specially designated schools?

The court ruled the way it did because the judges believed that education of America's students was the single most important function of the federal, state and local governments.

It was such an important undertaking that the government had indeed implemented compulsory attendance laws, as well as funded large amounts of money for the purpose of educating the nation's children.

Brown vs. Board of Education (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Board_of_Education)

Chief Justice Earl Warren noted in his decision:

It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. "

Not everybody agreed with the decision by the Supreme Court. In Virginia a senator ordered a major resistance movement in which schools were closed rather than accept Black students. In 1957 the Arkansas governor ordered the state military to block the doors to public schools and refuse entry to Blacks.

In 1963 the Alabama governor personally used his body to block the entry way to a public school in his state and not allow Black students to enter.

This became the infamous "Stand at the Schoolhouse Door," during which Wallace declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." He moved aside only when confronted by federal marshals and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.

Writer's Input

I believe that the case of Brown vs. Board of Education is arguably the most important school court case ever heard in the history of American public schools for several reasons. It provided not only the right for students of different colors to be treated equally but it provided the foundational strength for later decisions when it comes to special education students. At the time the Brown vs. Board of Education students being heard special education students in both Black schools and White schools were being educated in extremely isolating conditions and generally not receiving an actual education but… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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