Skip to Main Content

Handout B: Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) Brief

Case Background: In 1922, the state of Oregon passed the Compulsory Education Act. The law stated that all children between the ages of eight and sixteen must attend public school. The Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, nuns who ran a local Catholic school, and Hill Military Academy, a private school, sued the governor, attorney general, and district attorney. Both groups argued that the state was violating their Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Sisters argued the state was violating parents’ rights to choose where their children went to school, and the Academy argued that the policy violated their right to due process by taking the school’s property in money made through contract with parents, employees, and for supplies and equipment.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What did the Compulsory Education Act require? Why were religious and private schools concerned about this law?
  2. What other constitutional arguments could have been made in this case? Why do you think these arguments were not made?