Press "Enter" to skip to content

Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer in the women’s rights movement and the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, died Friday at age 87 due to complications of pancreatic cancer.

On education issues arising during her 27 years on the court, Ginsburg was a stalwart vote for sex equity in schools, expansive desegregation remedies, strict separation of church and state, and, in a memorable dissent, against broader drug testing of students.

Notable decisions and dissents concerning issues connected to education:

The 1996 landmark United States v. Virginia, in which she wrote the majority opinion striking down Virginia Military Institute’s traditional male-only admission policy. The 7-1 ruling said VMI violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. “Women seeking and fit for a VMI quality education cannot be offered anything less, under the State’s obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection,” Ginsburg wrote.

The 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. decision, in which she said states under the Americans for Disabilities Act “are required to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions when the State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities.”

Ginsburg wrote her first opinion in an education case toward the end of her second term. In Missouri v. Jenkins, Ginsburg joined the principal dissent in a 5-4 decision that overturned a sweeping desegregation plan for the Kansas City, Mo., school district. “Given the deep, inglorious history of segregation in Missouri, to curtail desegregation at this time and in this manner is an action at once too swift and too soon,” Ginsberg wrote.

Ginsburg was among the dissenters in the 2007 decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, which sharply curtailed the ways school districts could voluntarily consider race in assigning students to schools. 

A review of her career and all of her Supreme Court opinions and dissents can be found at Ballotpedia.