Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the attempt by 14 Rhode Island public-school students to ensure that every student in Rhode Island and throughout the country learns the basic civic knowledge, civic skills, and civic values needed to maintain our democracy. The plaintiffs now plan to seek review of these constitutional issues by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Appeals Court summarized its position as follows:
We conclude by echoing the district court’s observations in dismissing this case, that the students have called attention to critical issues of declining civic engagement and inadequate preparation for participation in civic life at a time when many are concerned about the future of American democracy. … Nevertheless, the weight of precedent stands in the Students’ way here, and they have not stated any viable claim for relief.
“Both the District Court and Court of Appeals recognized the critical connection between civic education and the preservation of our republican form of government,” Michael Rebell, lead counsel for the plaintiffs said. “However, the lower courts indicated that they lacked the authority to reconsider Supreme Court precedents that ‘stand in the students’ way.’ Only the Supreme Court can resolve the ambiguities in the case law regarding students’ rights to civic education. We look forward to making our case on behalf of all Rhode Island and U.S. public-school students before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Jennifer Wood, co-counsel for plaintiffs added that
The First Circuit’s decision articulated an extremely low bar for students’ rights to civic education, indicating that bare-bones reading and writing skills are sufficient basic education for effective citizenship in 2022. That is simply unacceptable.
The plaintiffs plan to file a petition for certiorari in April, asking the Supreme Court to add the case to its 2022-2023 docket.
More information about this case is available at www.cookvmckee.info.