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Prof. Justin Driver (U Chicago) Guest-Blogging About The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


I'm delighted to report that Prof. Justin Driver of the University of Chicago Law School will be guest-blogging this week about his new book, The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind. Here is an excerpt from the publisher's summary:

Judicial decisions assessing the constitutional rights of students in the nation's public schools have consistently generated bitter controversy. From racial segregation to un­authorized immigration, from antiwar protests to compul­sory flag salutes, from economic inequality to teacher-led prayer—these are but a few of the cultural anxieties dividing American society that the Supreme Court has addressed in elementary and secondary schools. The Schoolhouse Gate gives a fresh, lucid, and provocative account of the historic legal battles waged over education and illuminates contemporary disputes that continue to fracture the nation.

Justin Driver maintains that since the 1970s the Supreme Court has regularly abdicated its responsibility for protecting students' constitutional rights and risked trans­forming public schools into Constitution-free zones. Students deriving lessons about citizenship from the Court's decisions in recent decades would conclude that the following actions taken by educators pass constitutional muster: inflicting severe corporal punishment on students without any proce­dural protections, searching students and their possessions without probable cause in bids to uncover violations of school rules, random drug testing of students who are not suspected of wrongdoing, and suppressing student speech for the view­point it espouses. Taking their cue from such decisions, lower courts have upheld a wide array of dubious school actions, including degrading strip searches, repressive dress codes, draconian "zero tolerance" disciplinary policies, and severe restrictions on off-campus speech.

And two blurbs, one from the left and one from the right:

"Justin Driver's extraordinary book, The Schoolhouse Gate, deeply probes the many ways in which our constitutional law, as interpreted by America's judges, shapes the crucial world of public education—but fails the students for whom that education exists. No one who cares about our nation's children and thus our country's future can afford not to read this riveting work."
—Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School, author of Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution

"What a wonderful, engaging, provocative book! Justin Driver contends that federal courts have an essential role to play in expanding the constitutional rights of public school students. Even readers who disagree with some of the book's conclusions—like myself—and believe that school decisions should instead be left largely to school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents will be forced to grapple with the powerful historical and legal arguments advanced in this impressive volume."
—Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, author of From Brown to Bakke