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Children in the Legal System
University of Mississippi School of Law
Davis, Samuel M.

Children In the Legal System

Prof. Davis

Fall 2016

I. Allocating Power over Children: Parental Rights and State Authority (Ch. 1, Classes 1 and 2)

Meyer v. Nebraska-pg 2:

Statute prohibiting the teaching of foreign language.
Although the teacher’s rights are paramount, the interests of the parents and students are also at stake.
Court balances the state’s interest in having an educated citizenry against the individual interest.
This statute inhibits education so struck down, but State has power to compel attendance at some school and can make reasonable regulations for all schools.

Criminal case; defendant is school teacher
14th A: due process clause, right to liberty
Unitl Griswald and Loving in the 1960s, this pronouncement on due process was the only one in the family law context (middle of p.3)
Though teacher is defendant, the Court calls into interest those rights of the pupil and parents
State’s interests: right to educated citizenry; does this law further state’s interests?
Individual interests: teachers, parents, children
State has power to

1) Compel attendance at some school
2)Make reasonable regulations for all schools

Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary-pg 5:

Statute required attendance at public school.
The rights of parents, children, teachers and schools are at stake.
Decided this case on liberty, balancing the state and individual interests.
Parents have the liberty to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
The child is not the mere creature of the state.
State has power to reasonably regulate all schools; inspect, supervise, and examine them, their teachers and students; require that all children attend some school; require that teachers be of good moral character and patriotic disposition; require that certain studies be taught; require that nothing be taught that is inimical to the public welfare.

Meyer and pierce are both strong on the side of parental authority.

Prince v. Massachusetts-pg 11:

Law prohibits children from selling on the street/in a public place.
Although there is a strong individual interest, state has an interest in regulating the conduct and activities of adults and children, and children are different than adults.
The state is parens patria and can restrict the parent’s control.
Although the statute would be unconstitutional if applied generally or to adults, it is not as applied to children.

Wisconsin v. Yoder-pg 18:

Law requires parents to send their children to school until age 16, but Amish stopped sending their children after the 8th grade.
Although the Amish approve of early schooling, they favor vocational education in the Amish community for older children out of fear their children will leave the community.

Court applies three pronged test: Is the belief sincerely held? Does the statute impose undue burden on the free exercise of religion? Does the state’s interests significantly outweigh the individual interests?
Is belief sincerely held: have been a religious sect for 300 years and have a history of self-reliance and self sufficiency and their religious beliefs are inextricably intertwined with their way of life.
Does the statute impose an under burden: their belief is their way of life and there are too many influences as the children get older.
Weighing state interests and individual interests: Ideal of universal education, educated citizenry is necessary in a participatory democracy, and education prepares citizens to be self-reliant and self sufficient, but these interests are being achieved because the amish are self-reliant and self-sufficient. Also, statute used to only require attendance until 14, which is what the Amish are doing.
Will it apply to any other group? Courts must be careful and use restraint. This is not a recently discovered thing, they are not claiming to be more enlightened or progressive. The court says few religious groups could meet this standard.

in re McMillan pg 31 note 3:Native Americans not sending children to school, but it was cultural, not religious beliefs, and there was no showing that they got any alternative education or that their culture would be endangered by them attending school.
state v. Shaver: Law required teachers at private schools to be certified. Certification requirements don’t affect religious beliefs.

School attendance laws and child labor laws: both designed to keep children from competing with adults for jobs in the workplace.

II. Children in the Legal System (Ch. 2, Classes 3-6)

Minors and contracts: majority rule is that a minor can disaffirm a contract at any time and is entitled to get back any money paid because minors are easy prey for unscrupulous merchants.

If a minor misrepresents age, the seller is entitled to return of property in whatever condition and the minor is entitled to return of money paid, less depreciation for use of property.

Two minority rules: Benefit rule and Use Rule

Benefit rule: Upon Disaffirmance, minor s entitled to return of money less a deduction for his use of the good, i.e., benefit received.
Use rule: Upon disaffirmance, minor is entitled to return of money less a deduction for any depreciation of the good.

Dodson v. Shrader-pg 111:

Minors buys a truck but wants to get out of the contract.
They did not discuss age prior to the sale.
Court adopts new rule that minor is entitled to return, not of all money paid but rather, money paid less an appropriate amount for the use of, depreciation of, or negligent or willful damage to property while in minor’s possession.

Void vs Voidable: minor’s contract is voidable, which means that the minor must take affirmative steps to disaffirm the contract during his or her minority, but there are exceptions.

Jones v. Dressel:

Skydiving services.
He wanted to disaffirm after he reached 18, but he had already reached 18, although some courts give a few months window.


Necessities doctrine: minor is liable for payment for necessities furnished by merchants, that is, food, shelter, clothing, med


preceded Bellotti. Parental consent requirement was held unconstitutional.

City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Hlth.:

followed Bellotti; involved consent statute. Was held unconstitutional because it did not follow the dual option format of Bellotti even though Bellotti was a plurality opinon.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey:

parental consent requirement upheld; spousal notice requirement struck down.
Also upheld a 24 hour waiting period and a requirement that the woman be given information on fetal development and alternatives to abortion.

H.L. v. Matheson:

involved parental notice requirement.
Those challenging the staute said the purpose was to get parents involved to stop the abortion.
The court says that getting the parents involved was a way to make sure the decision is informed. Upheld the statute.

Ohio v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Hlth.:

Upheld a notice requirement that provided for judicial bypass.

Hodgson v. Minnesota:

Supreme Court upheld parental notice statute even though it required notifying both parents followed by a 48 hour waiting period. The court stated the statute would further the important state interest of ensuring the minor’s decision is knowing and intelligent.

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood:

Circuit court held statute requiring 48 hour waiting period after written notice to parents unconstitutional because it failed to provide for medical emergencies.
Supreme court held that the district court must issue an injunction to prevent unconstitutional application, but before they could act, the state repealed the statute.

Gonzales v. Carhart:

Supreme Court upheld a federal statute banning partial birth abortion that did not have a health exception for a woman during a medical emergency. This may signal the court’s willingness to revisit the abortion issue.

Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt:

Statute required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges to local hospital. Court held statute unconstitutional.

Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Currier:

MS had similar statute and injunction had been issued to prevent enforcement.
Governor said the purpose was to do away with abortions, not protect health, so Circuit court upheld the injunction.

III. Children’s Rights and School Authority (Ch. 3, Classes 7-9)

Are the rights of students in school settings the same as minors outside of school? Adults?