364 U.S. 479 (1960), 14, Shelton v. Tucker

Docket Nº:No. 14
Citation:364 U.S. 479, 81 S.Ct. 247, 5 L.Ed.2d 231
Party Name:Shelton v. Tucker
Case Date:December 12, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 479

364 U.S. 479 (1960)

81 S.Ct. 247, 5 L.Ed.2d 231

Shelton

v.

Tucker

No. 14

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 12, 1960

Argued November 7, 1960

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS

Syllabus

An Arkansas statute requires every teacher, as a condition of employment in a state supported school or college, to file annually an affidavit listing without limitation every organization to which he has belonged or regularly contributed within the preceding five years. Teachers in state supported schools and colleges are not covered by a civil service system, they are hired on a year-to-year basis, and they have no job security beyond the end of each school year. The contracts of the teachers here involved were not renewed, because they refused to file the required affidavits.

Held: The statute is invalid, because it deprives teachers of their right of associational freedom protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by state action. Pp. 480-490.

(a) There can be no doubt of the right of a State to investigate the competence and fitness of those whom it hires to teach in its schools. P. 485.

(b) To compel a teacher to disclose his every associational tie is to impair his right of free association, a right closely allied to freedom of speech and a right which, like free speech, lies at the foundation of a free society. Pp. 485-487.

(c) The unlimited and indiscriminate sweep of the statute here involved and its comprehensive interference with associational freedom go far beyond what might be justified in the exercise of the State's legitimate inquiry into the fitness and competence of its teachers. Pp. 487-490.

174 F.Supp. 351 and 231 Ark. 641, 331 S.W.2d 701, reversed.

Page 480

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

An Arkansas statute compels every teacher, as a condition of employment in a state-supported school or college, to file annually an affidavit listing without limitation every organization to which he has belonged or regularly contributed within the preceding five years. At issue in these two cases is the validity of that statute under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. No. 14 is an appeal from the judgment of a three-judge Federal District Court upholding the statute's validity, 174 F.Supp. 351. No. 83 is here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Arkansas, which also held the statute constitutionally valid. 231 Ark. 641, 331 S.W.2d 701.

The statute in question is Act 10 of the Second Extraordinary Session of the Arkansas General Assembly of 1958. The provisions of the Act are summarized in the opinion of the District Court as follows:

Act 10 provides in substance that no person shall be employed or elected to employment as a superintendent, principal or teacher in any public school in Arkansas, or as an instructor, professor or teacher in any public institution of higher learning in that State until such person shall have submitted to the appropriate

Page 481

hiring authority an affidavit listing all organizations to which he at the time belongs and to which he has belonged during the past five years, and also listing all organizations to which he at the time is paying regular dues or is making regular contributions, or to which within the past five years he has paid such dues or made such contributions. The Act further provides, among other things, that any contract entered into with any person who has not filed the prescribed affidavit shall be void; that no public moneys shall be paid to such person as compensation for his services, and that any such funds so paid may be recovered back either from the person receiving such funds or from the board of trustees or other governing body making the payment. The filing of a false affidavit is denounced as perjury, punishable by a fine of not less than five hundred nor more than one thousand dollars, and, in addition, the person filing the false affidavit is to lose his teaching license.

174 F.Supp. 353-354.1

Page 482

[81 S.Ct. 249] These provisions must be considered against the existing system of teacher employment required by Arkansas law. Teachers there are hired on a year-to-year basis. They are not covered by a civil service system, and they have no job security beyond the end of each school year. The closest approach to tenure is a statutory provision for the automatic renewal of a teacher's contract if he is not notified within ten days after the end of a school year that the contract has not been renewed. Ark.1947 Stat.Ann. § 80-1304(b) (1960); Wabbaseka School District No. 7 v. Johnson, 225 Ark. 982, 286 S.W.2d 841.

The plaintiffs in the Federal District Court (appellants here) were B. T. Shelton, a teacher employed in the Little Rock Public School System, suing for himself and others similarly situated, together with the Arkansas Teachers Association and its Executive Secretary, suing for the benefit of members of the Association. Shelton had been

Page 483

employed in the Little Rock Special School District for twenty-five years. In the spring of 1959, he was notified that, before he could be employed for the 1959-1960 school year, he must file the affidavit required by Act 10, listing all his organizational connections over the previous five years. He declined to file the affidavit, and his contract for the ensuing school year was not renewed. At the trial, the evidence showed that he was not a member of the Communist Party or of any organization advocating the overthrow of the Government by force, and that he was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The court upheld Act 10, finding the information it required was "relevant," and relying on several decisions of this Court, particularly Garner v. Board of Public Works of Los Angeles, 341 U.S. 716; Adler v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 485; Beilan v.

Page 484

Board of Education, 357 U.S. 399, [81 S.Ct. 250] and Lerner v. Casey, 357 U.S. 468.2 The plaintiffs in the state court proceedings (petitioners here) were Max Carr, an associate professor at the University of Arkansas, and Ernest T. Gephardt, a teacher at Central High School in Little Rock, each suing for himself and others similarly situated. Each refused to execute and file the affidavit required by Act 10. Carr executed an affirmation3 in which he listed his membership in professional organizations, denied ever having been a member of any subversive organization, and offered to answer any questions which the University authorities might constitutionally ask touching upon his qualifications as a teacher. Gephardt filed an affidavit stating that he had never belonged to a subversive organization, disclosing his membership in the Arkansas Education Association and the American Legion, and also offering to answer any questions which the school authorities might constitutionally ask touching upon his qualifications as a teacher. Both were advised that their failure to comply with the requirements of Act 10 would make impossible their reemployment as teachers for the following school year. The Supreme Court of Arkansas upheld the constitutionality of Act 10, on its face and as applied to the petitioners. 231 Ark. 641, 331 S.W.2d 701.

I

It is urged here, as it was unsuccessfully urged throughout the proceedings in both the federal and state courts, that Act 10 deprives teachers in Arkansas of their

Page 485

rights to personal, associational, and academic liberty, protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by state action. In considering this contention, we deal with two basic postulates.

First. There can be no doubt of the right of a State to investigate the competence and fitness of those whom it hires to teach in its schools, as this Court before now has had occasion to recognize.

A teacher works in a sensitive area in a school room. There he shapes the attitude of young minds towards the society in which they live. In this, the state has a vital concern.

Adler v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 485, 493. There is

no requirement in the Federal Constitution that a teacher's classroom conduct be the sole basis for determining his fitness. Fitness for teaching depends on a broad range of factors.

Beilan v. Board of Education, 357 U.S. 399, 406.4

This controversy is thus not of a pattern with such cases as NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, and Bates v. Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516. In those cases, the Court held that there was no substantially relevant correlation between the governmental interest asserted and the State's effort to compel disclosure of the membership lists involved. Here, by contrast, there can be no question of the relevance of a State's inquiry into the fitness and competence of its teachers.5

Second. It is not disputed that to compel a teacher to disclose his every associational tie is to impair

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that teacher's right of free association, a right closely allied to freedom of speech and a right which, like free speech, lies at the foundation of a free society. De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, 364; Bates v. Little Rock, supra, at 361 U.S. 2-5522-523. Such interference with personal freedom is conspicuously accented when the teacher serves at the absolute will of those to whom the disclosure must be made -- those who any year can terminate the teacher's employment without bringing charges, without notice, without a hearing, without affording an opportunity to explain.

The statute does not provide that the information it requires be kept confidential. Each school board is left free to deal with the information as it wishes.6 The record contains...

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