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The William Wayne Justice Papers

Doe v. Plyler

Education of non-resident children: Doe v. Plyler

Doe v. Plyler, 458 F. Supp. 569 (E.D. Tex. 1978).

In May 1975, the Texas Legislature revised state education laws to withhold state funds from local school districts for the education of children who were not legally admitted into the United States.  The new statute also authorized local school districts to deny enrollment in their public schools to children not legally admitted to the country. In 1977, the Tyler School District instated a policy charging $1,000 tuition per year to children who could not establish legal residency in the United States. Risking federal immigration violations, four families filed a suit against the Tyler Independent School District in September 1977. Prior to trial, the court ordered that the action be maintained as a class action.

Following a hearing in December 1977, Judge Justice held that the state statute violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed this ruling, 628 F.2d 448 (Doe v. Plyler, 5th Cir. 1980), as did the United States Supreme Court. (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)).

Judge Justice’s decision was largely met with disapproval by the public, as illustrated in the following letters written by Mrs. E. P. Norton, Virgil Neugebauer, and Robert Townsend.

However, other citizens praised Judge Justice for his decision. Reverend John McCarthy’s letter commends the Judge.