It’s Law Day, aka Hug Your Lawyer Day!!

May 1st is officially designated as Law Day! An excellent day to hug your lawyer.

After you have done that, we recommend that you spend a little time studying the 14th Amendment. The American Bar Association has suggested this as a theme for Law Day 2017.   This should particularly resonate with educators, as the 14th Amendment has been such a significant factor in the development of the legal foundations of our public schools.

A very brief timeline of significant events:

1789: The Constitution goes into effect.

1791: the first ten amendments—the Bill of Rights—go into effect.  This includes guarantees of freedom of speech, of the press and the free exercise of religion. It also requires due process of law before any deprivation of life, liberty or property.  That all sounds great—but there’s a catch.  Keep reading.

1833: In Barron v. Baltimore the Supreme Court holds that the Bill of Rights applies only to the federal government—not the states or their political subdivisions. That’s the catch.

1857: The infamous Dred Scott decision holds that people “of the African race” are not part of the “sovereign people” under the Constitution, and therefore, are not entitled to “the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”  Eleven tumultuous years later, the 14th Amendment effectively overruled this bad decision.

1863: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address calls for “a new birth of freedom.”  Lincoln’s vision was not inspired by the legalistic language of the Constitution, but rather, by the soaring rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence.

1868: The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments are ratified and America has that new birth of freedom that Lincoln envisioned.  These three amendments have been collectively termed “America’s Second Founding.”  The first section of the 14th Amendment makes it clear that the states (and their political subdivisions, such as school districts) must also respect the Bill of Rights.  This overrides Barron v. Baltimore and Dred Scott.

Fast forward then to the 20th Century and the many court cases that have interpreted the 14th Amendment in the context of public education. You know these cases.  Brown v. Board of Education.  Tinker v. Des Moines.  T.L.O. v. New Jersey.  Goss v. Lopez.  Plyler v. Doe.

Neither our society nor our schools would be the way they are without the 14th Amendment. So take a few moments today to reflect on this. And feel free to share the following link with your school’s social studies teachers.



File this one under:  U.S. CONSTITUTION

Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!