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Bolling v. Sharpe

From lawbrain.com

Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954), was a constitutional law case heard before the United States Supreme Court that concerned civil rights, and, particularly, segregation in public schools.

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Summary of Case Facts

African American children attempted to enroll in a new high school in the District of Columbia (“D.C.”). Despite petitioning the school board to open the new school as an integrated school, only whites were admitted. The African American children, upon seeking admission to enroll, were refused entry by the school’s principal. A suit was filed in D.C.’s Federal District Court with the goal of having the students admitted. The District Court dismissed the claim but the United States Supreme court granted a writ of certiorari for the case to be heard.


Did the D.C. school system’s segregation policies violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment?

Holding and Law

Yes. The court unanimously held that racial discrimination in the public school system effectively denied African Americans due process of law as provided by the Fifth Amendment. Because the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to the states (and not the District of Columbia) creative use of and reliance upon the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of “liberty” was used to find the schools’ segregation unconstitutional. This case also set up the idea of “reverse incorporation,” in that despite the inapplicability of the Fourteenth Amendment to D.C., the court felt it unreasonable to hold the states to a higher standard than that of the federal government (as their earlier Brown decision relied on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to overturn the idea of “separate but equal” facilities in the various states).

Related Cases and Resources on LawBrain

Brown v. Board of Education


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