The interest of the state: a view from the judiciary

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The problem of this research study was to analyze decisions of the Supreme Court regarding expressions of The State's interest in education. The study focused on decisions of the Supreme Court which have been based on the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech involving elementary and secondary schools so as to determine the nature and scope of The State's interest in the education of the individual. The research questions focused on specific decisions of the Supreme Court which have dealt with the issue of freedom of speech as this Constitutional guarantee has been applied to elementary and secondary schools, the purpose(s) or goal(s) of education as stated in the decisions, the judicial standard applied in each decision, the rationale or justification for the intervention of The State in of the individual as delineated in the decision, and the nature of a congruency or a pattern for The State's interest in education. The methodology of the study was historical. The LEXIS computer analysis was used in conjunction with the analysis of legal indices in the identification and selection of data.

Six cases were identified for analysis in the study. The cases included: West Virginia v. Barnette (1943), Pickering v. Board of Education (1968), Tinker v. Des Moines Community School District (1969), City of Madison v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (1976), Mt. Healthy v. Doyle (1977), and Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District (1979).

The review of literature focused on the Constitutional basis for freedom of speech, political theory and The State, and the views of contemporary critics concerning the interest of The State in education. Within the United States, The State maintains a system of social control and the elementary and secondary schools are an important part of that social control. Outside of the family, the school is regarded as the major socializing institution. A major challenge for the educator is that of formulating a conceptual framework that achieves a harmonious relationship between what is deemed to be the interest of The State and the needs as well as rights of individual persons, The institutions of a society rest on a foundation of beliefs, principles, values, norms, and arrangements which establish, in part, the interests of The State and the rights of the individual. The relationship which exists between The State and the individual is a major component of the social system and influences and is influenced by the school as an institution. The findings of the study indicate that there is not consistent use of the term, The State, within the relevant literature and within decisions of the Supreme Court, that the power and authority of The State through the arm of the Supreme Court may be seen as a mechanism for the maintenance of order, stability, and consensus within the social system, and that the procedural and substantive issues within the decisions of the Supreme Court have had an important influence on educational institutions. The interest of The State, the limits of the power of The State, and the prerogatives of The State are defined and determined by The State itself.