An American Perspective on Equal Educational Opportunities

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Education and the Law


The United States ushered in a new era in American history on 17 May 1954 in its monumental ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Brown is not only the Court's most significant decision on race and equal educational opportunities, but also ranks among the most important cases it has ever decided. In Brown, a unanimous Court struck down the pernicious doctrine of "separate but equal" in holding that the de jure segregation of students in public schools on the basis of race deprived minority children of equal educational opportunities in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A year later, in Brown v. Board of Education II, the Court set about the task of dismantling segregated school systems.

In addition to its impact on school desegregation, Brown has been the catalyst for revolutionary change influencing just about every facet of American society. In fact, Brown's effects can be seen in such diverse aspects of American life as education for children with disabilities to gender equity to civil rights for all in housing and employment. Given the breadth of changes that it spawned, this article does not attempt to present an exhaustive review of the many ways Brown has changed American life. Rather, the article briefly reviews the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown before turning to the two most important educational areas where it has been key, namely special education and sexual harassment.

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Taylor & Francis





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Abingdon, United Kingdom

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