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Bender v. Williamsport Area School District

475 U.S. 534 (1986)

Facts of the Case:

A group of high school students sought permission to hold meeting for their club, which advocated "spiritual growth and positive attitudes in the lives of its members, during their school's activity period. The District Court ruled in the students' favor, and the school complied with the ruling. A member of the school board, Youngman objected to the court's decision and filed an appeal. The Court of Appeals held that he did not have standing to sue.


The Court ruled that one member of a School Board cannot use the interest of the Board to confer standing upon himself.

Majority Opinion: (Justice Stevens)

The District Court's judgment was against the members of the School Board in their professional capacities, not as private individuals. As a result, he did not have any personal stake in the outcome of the case. "Mr. Youngman's status as a School Board member does not permit him to "step into the shoes of the Board" and invoke its right to appeal."

Dissenting Opinion: (Justice Burger:)

While it is right that Petros ought to be allowed to meet during the activity period, the case ought to be heard because Youngman has standing to sue.  Youngman is a parent whose child attends a public school thereby giving him the right to file the suit.


This decision restricted the groups of people who could challenge court rulings. Because the District Court's ruling went against the School Board, only the Board itself (rather than the members who composed it) could appeal the decision.


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Last modified: 02/15/01