In The

Supreme Court of the United States

Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26, et al.


by his Next Friend Pico, et al.

Decided June 25, 1982

Justice O’Connor, Dissenting


Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court split on the First Amendment issue of local school boards removing library books from junior high schools and high schools. Four ruled that it was unconstitutional, four Justices concluded the contrary (with perhaps a few minor exceptions), and one Justice concluded that the Court need not decide the question.

Topic: First Amendment*Court vote: 5–4
Note: No other Justices joined this opinion.
Holding: The 1st Amendment limits the power of local school boards to remove library books from junior high schools and high schools.
Citation: 457 U.S. 853 Docket: 80–2043Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR, dissenting.

If the school board can set the curriculum, select teachers, and determine initially what books to purchase for the school library, it surely can decide which books to discontinue or remove from the school library, so long as it does not also interfere with the right of students to read the material and to discuss it. As JUSTICE REHNQUIST persuasively argues, the plurality's analysis overlooks the fact that, in this case, the government is acting in its special role as educator.

I do not personally agree with the Board's action with respect to some of the books in question here, but it is not the function of the courts to make the decisions that have been properly relegated to the elected members of school boards. It is the school board that must determine educational suitability, and it has done so in this case. I therefore join THE CHIEF JUSTICE's dissent.

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