Meyer v. Nebraska: Facts of the Case

2012-10-09 21:38:31 by admin

Meyer v. Nebraska

Meyer v. Nebraska: The Court’s Ruling

Meyer involved the constitutionality of a post–World War I statute that the legislature of Nebraska enacted prohibiting instruction in any language other than English to any student who had not passed the eighth grade. This prohibition applied to all private, denominational, parochial, and public schools in the state. Any teacher who violated this statute could be charged with a misdemeanor and, if convicted, fined from $25 to $100 and confined in the county jail for up to 30 days.

Meyer, a teacher in a Nebraska parochial school, was charged and convicted under the statute for teaching reading in the German language to a 10-year-old student who had not yet completed the eighth grade. The Supreme Court of Nebraska upheld Meyer’s conviction, determining that the statute under which he was convicted was a valid exercise of state police power. The court affirmed as reasonable the statute’s purpose of requiring that “the English language should become the mother tongue of all children reared in this state.” By seeking to prevent foreigners who had taken residence in this country from rearing and educating their children in the language of their native land, the court said, the state was trying to prevent the harmful effect that children taught in their native language might be inculcated in “ideas and sentiments foreign to the best interests of this country” (pp. 397–398).