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Top Three Court Cases for Education: Brown v. Board of Education | Teacher Talk

Part 1 of 3

It’s that time of year when we hear a lot about Supreme Court cases, and that got me thinking about my favorite court cases to talk about in my Teacher Pathway classes not only because they made a huge impression at the time of their decisions but also because they significantly impact our schools and courts’ decisions to this day.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)

The most well-known Supreme Court case that impacted education is Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), and it’s my favorite to discuss because while its intentions were noble, some of its impact created problems schools are still attempting to resolve. The landmark case desegregated schools, going against the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) case that allowed for separate but equal public facilities. It’s one of the first major events of the Civil Rights Movement and sent a strong message to Americans about segregation.

On the downside, this ruling accelerated the growth of private schools for less than honorable purposes. In the years just before the ruling and then at least a decade after, the United States experienced significant growth in private schooling as “segregation academies” opened. According to the Southern Education Foundation, “From 1950 to 1965, private school enrollment grew at unprecedented rates all over the nation, with the South having the largest growth.” White flight was not only occurring in neighborhoods but also in schools. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Supreme Court ruled in Runyon v. McCrary that racial discrimination used to decline admittance to private schools was unlawful.

Another detrimental effect of Brown v. Board was that many Black educators lost their jobs or were demoted. According to the 2022 Education Week article “Brown v. Board Decimated the Black Educator Pipeline,” “Prior to Brown, Black principals and teachers comprised 35 percent to 50 percent of the educator workforce in the 17 states with segregated school systems. Today, no state has anywhere close to those percentages, and nationally, just seven percent of teachers, and about 11 percent of principals, are Black.” In my opinion, the best podcast episode about this negative result of Brown v. Board is “Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment” on Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast where he emphasizes that integration should have started with teachers and principals, not students.

Gina Benz has taught for over 23 years in South Dakota. She currently teaches Teacher Pathway (a class she helped develop), English 3, English 3 for immigrant and refugee students, and AP English Language at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls, as well as Technology in Education at the University of Sioux Falls.<br/><br/>In 2015 Gina was one of 37 educators in the nation to receive the Milken Educator Award. Since then she has written and spoken on a state and national level about teacher recruitment and grading practices. Before that she received the Presidential Scholar Program Teacher Recognition Award and Roosevelt High School’s Excellence in Instruction Award in 2012 and the Coca-Cola Educator of Distinction Award in 2007.