ISLAND TREES SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION v. PICO

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
80-2043
Petitioner 
Island Trees School District Board of Education
Respondent 
Pico
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(on behalf of the Petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

The Island Trees Union Free School District's Board of Education (the "Board"), acting contrary to the recommendations of a committee of parents and school staff, ordered that certain books be removed from its district's junior high and high school libraries. In support of its actions, the Board said such books were: "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy." Acting through his friend Francis Pico, and on behalf of several other students, Steven Pico brought suit in federal district court challenging the Board's decision to remove the books. The Board won; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. The Board petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari.

Question 

Did the Board of Education's decision to ban certain books from its junior high and high school libraries, based on their content, violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Pico, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

Yes. Although school boards have a vested interest in promoting respect for social, moral, and political community values, their discretionary power is secondary to the transcendent imperatives of the First Amendment. The Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, held that as centers for voluntary inquiry and the dissemination of information and ideas, school libraries enjoy a special affinity with the rights of free speech and press. Therefore, the Board could not restrict the availability of books in its libraries simply because its members disagreed with their idea content.

Cite this Page
ISLAND TREES SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION v. PICO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 27 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1981/1981_80_2043>.
ISLAND TREES SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION v. PICO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1981/1981_80_2043 (last visited July 27, 2014).
"ISLAND TREES SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION v. PICO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 27, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1981/1981_80_2043.