The Fourteenth Amendment and Equal Protection

Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, in part, that no state can "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Over the past 150 years, Congress and the courts have applied this "Equal Protection Clause" to our right to equal education.

This year's Exhibit looks at Equal Protection in Education, including court decisions in:

  • Mendez v. Westminster School District, in which the placement of Mexican-American students into separate “Mexican schools” was found to violate their rights under the Equal Protection Clause;
  • Brown v. Board of Education, in which the placement of white and African-American students in different public schools on the basis of race was also found to violate the Equal Protection Clause;
  • Lau v. Nichols, finding the lack of supplemental language instruction in public school for students with limited English proficiency  violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, in which certain affirmative action policies used by two universities to increase minority enrollment were upheld while others were struck down; and
  • Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, in which public schools were required, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to provide disabled students with opportunities to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress. 

    The Exhibit also looks at Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1972, which prohibits exclusion of a student solely on the basis of sex. 



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