A suit was brought challenging the constitutionality of a series of benefits being offered
from Ohio to non-public schools and their students. First, approved secular textbooks
were supplied. Standardized testing and scoring were also offered. Speech and hearing
diagnostic services were provided by board of education members and contracted
physicians. Remedial services were offered for non-public school student needing
special attention. These services were not given inside the private schools, but rather
in public schools or in mobile classrooms. Instructional materials that were "incapable
of diversion to religious use" were given to the schools. Finally, field trip
transportation was given to students attending non-public schools.
The Court allowed Ohio to provide textbooks, standardized tests, therapeutic and
diagnostic services to non-public school children. However, the state could not offer
educational materials or subsidize class field trips.
Majority Opinion: (Justice Blackmun)|
The textbook-purchase provision is constitutional as the Court has repeatedly decided.
The supply of standardized tests and their scoring is also permissible because the state
has an interest in ensuring that its youth receive a proper education. Diagnostic
services are proper because, unlike teaching, there is no educational function and
limited contact with the student. The neutrality of the therapeutic services is
demonstrated by their being held outside the non-public school setting. The supplying
of educational materials is unconstitutional because it has the “primary effect of
providing a direct and substantial advancement of the sectarian enterprise.” The field
trip provision is unconstitutional and differs from the busing permitted in Everson is
several ways. The non-public school has greater control over the timing and frequency
of the trips. The religious school teacher could impart a religious meaning to a field
trip taken to a secular place. As a result, the funding of field trips must be treated
as the giving of educational materials to private schools. Excessive entanglement would
be required to ensure that they serve only a secular purpose.
In this decision, the Court continues to emphasize the role of the supervisor of the
students. When diagnostic and therapeutic services are offered by members of the board
of education there is no fear of religious training. However, when neutral educational
materials are provided or field trips are taken to secular places, the religious teacher
is able to impart religious meaning to otherwise neutral items.
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