From Courthouse to Schoolhouse

Is the involvement of courts an obstacle to school reform, or an asset? A new book, From Schoolhouse to Courthouse: The Judiciary’s Role in American Education, edited by two Ed Next bloggers, Marty West and Josh Dunn, attempts to address this broad topic in a comprehensive way.

As the book’s promotional materials note

From race to speech, from religion to school funding, from discipline to special education, few aspects of education policy have escaped the courtroom over the past fifty years. Predictably, much controversy has ensued. Supporters of education litigation contend that the courts are essential to secure student (and civil) rights, while critics insist that the courts distort policy and that the mere threat of litigation undermines the authority of teachers and administrators.

From Schoolhouse to Courthouse brings together experts on law, political science, and education policy to test these claims. Shep Melnick (Boston College) and James Ryan (University of Virginia School of Law) draw lessons from judicial efforts to promote school desegregation and civil rights. Martha Derthick (University of Virginia), John Dinan (Wake Forest University), and Michael Heise (Cornell Law School) discuss litigation over high-stakes testing and school finance in the era of No Child Left Behind. Richard Arum (New York University), Samuel R. Bagenstos (Washington University Law School), and Frederick M. Hess (American Enterprise Institute) analyze the consequences of court rulings for school discipline, special education, and district management. Finally, editors Joshua Dunn and Martin R. West probe the tangled relationship between religious freedom, student speech, and school choice.

In a book report published on Ed Week’s School Law blog last week, Mark Walsh heartily recommends the book “for anyone with an interest in school law: professors, practicing attorneys, education students, administrators, policymakers, and the most interested teachers and parents (as well as students). It might be nice if a few federal judges or Supreme Court justices, or at least their law clerks, got their hands on the volume, too.”

The book can be ordered here.

A condensed version of one chapter from the book appeared in Education Next this summer as “Law and Disorder in the Classroom,” by Richard Arum and Doreet Preiss.

And for those who don’t like to read, you can listen and watch as Marty West discusses the book in a video here.


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