Brown v. Board of Education

Following is the case brief for Brown v. Board of Education, United States Supreme Court, (1954)

Case Summary of Brown v. Board of Education:

  • Oliver Brown was denied admission into a white school
  • As a representative of a class action suit, Brown filed a claim alleging that laws permitting segregation in public schools were a violation of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause.
  • After the District Court upheld segregation using Plessy v. Ferguson as authority, Brown petitioned the United States Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court held that segregation had a profound and detrimental effect on education and segregation deprived minority children of equal protection under the law.

Brown v. Board of Education Case Brief

Statement of Facts:

Oliver Brown and other plaintiffs were denied admission into a public school attended by white children. This was permitted under laws which allowed segregation based on race. Brown claimed that the segregation deprived minority children of equal protection under the 14th Amendment.  Brown filed a class action, consolidating cases from Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware and Kansas against the Board of Education in a federal district court in Kansas.

Procedural History:

Brown filed suit against the Board of Education in District Court. After the District Court held in favor of the Board, Brown appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issues and Holding:

Does the segregation on the basis of race in public schools deprive minority children of equal educational opportunities, violating the 14th Amendment? Yes.

Judgment:

The Court Reversed the District Court’s decision.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

Separating educational facilities based on racial classifications is unequal in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Reasoning:

The Court held that looking to historical legislation and prior cases could not yield a true meaning of the 14th Amendment because each is inconclusive.

At the time the 14th Amendment was enacted, almost no African American children were receiving an education. As such, trying to determine the historical intentions surrounding the 14th Amendment is not helpful. In addition, few public schools existed at the time the amendment was adopted.

Analyzing the text of the amendment itself is necessary to determine its true meaning. The Court held the basic language of the Amendment suggests the intent to prohibit all discriminatory legislation against minorities.

Despite the fact each facility is essentially the same, the Court held it was necessary to examine the actual effect of segregation on education. Over the past few years, public education has turned into one of the most valuable public services both state and local governments have to offer. Since education has a heavy bearing on the future success of each child, the opportunity to be educated must be equal to each student.

The Court stated that the opportunity for education available to segregated minorities has a profound and detrimental effect on both their hearts and minds. Studies showed that segregated students felt less motivated, inferior and have a lower standard of performance than non-minority students. The Court explicitly overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), stating that segregation deprives African-American students of equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Concurring/Dissenting opinion:

Unanimous decision led by Justice Warren.

Significance:

Brown v. Board of Education was the landmark case which desegregated public schools in the United States. It abolished the idea of “separate but equal.”

Student Resources:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_brown.html
https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/347/483

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