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Making Civics Real Workshop 8: Rights and Responsibilities of Students  
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Workshop 7

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Teacher Perspectives
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Student Perspectives: Sloan v. District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)

Dana: The case is dealing with parents of students who attend school in the District [who] are being given a voucher worth $5,000. They can use [the voucher] to attend any school they want--public, private, Catholic, Jewish. This parent [Sloan] feels that this shouldn't be right because her tax dollars are being used to fund these vouchers at private institutions, and she feels it's a violation of the First Amendment. I'm on the side of Ms. Sloan, and we pretty much have to argue that the voucher itself and the actions the schools have taken are violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Troy: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the petitioner, Carla Sloane. I was on the respondent side, the District of Columbia Public Schools. I felt that we, too, had a very convincing case. I obviously felt that we should have won. I think the arguments that we gave follow prior Supreme Court decisions and were stronger arguments. Usually when we do things like this, I'm on the side pitted against my actual feelings. This time, I got a side that I actually felt for. I think that if you give money to all people, they should have the choice to do whatever they want with it. They weren't discriminating against one group or another. The school board gave out blanket vouchers to all people in the state and said you can use this money to send your child to whatever school you want. Some parents felt that their tax dollars were going to religious schools and things like that. We figured out the main things to present the case—the Lemon test, the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the compelling state interest. I figured that if we divided the three parts up amongst us, we would have a better chance of winning the case. At one point [the other side] said that the money was only given to people to go to religious schools. I just waited for my turn so I could get up there and tell the court that the money was given to everyone, so everyone had an equal opportunity. I was just trying to sit back, listen to some of the things that they said, [and] find little niches in it that I could use to my own advantage and the advantage of my group.


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