Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)

The Facts

Oregon voters approved a referendum outlawing the operation of private schools and mandating that all children between the ages of eight and 16 attend public schools. A Catholic school and a nonsectarian private school challenged the law under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the law violated the Due Process Clause. Drawing upon Meyer v. Nebraska, it stated that the guarantee of “liberty” prevents the states from “unreasonably interfer(ing) with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.” It held that that the “rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the State” and that there existed no “general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”