Susan Norwick and Tarja Dachinger were foreigners married to US citizens and living in the US in the case Ambach v. Norwick. They were entitled to apply for US citizenship due to their relationship, but they repeatedly declined. Both petitioners meet all of the educational standards and qualifications set out by the State of New York for certification as a public school teacher. As a result, they applied for teacher certification in New York State, but their applications were rejected because the state law (N.Y. Ed. Law 3001 (3)) prohibited the recruitment of non-citizen teachers into its public schools (Oyez. Org, n.d). Norwick went to seek for a legal redress by filing a suit in the federal district court, and later joined by Dachinger. In their arguments, the appellees cited a violation of their rights of equal protection. The US district court under a three-judge bench argued that the New York education statute was overboard, and ruled in their favor. Ambach, the States commissioner of education appealed the ruling in the Supreme Court for a review of the district courts decision that the States statute discriminated against the prospective instructors who were aliens.
Does a statute barring aliens who declined to seek the US citizenship from becoming certified public school educators violate the equal protection clause as enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment?
The N.Y. Ed. Law § 3001 (3) was not against the equal protection clause. In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the United States District Court and held that the states laws barring non-citizenship seeking aliens from certain governmental jobs were justified. The Court argued that the fact that the public school instructors fell under the earlier recognized government function canon, the US Constitution demanded that citizenship was required to apply for a teaching position in schools, and had a rational relationship to the legitimate interests of the State. Consequently, the Court found that the N.Y. Ed. Law § 3001 (3) had legitimate states interest in furthering its educational goals as it only prohibited aliens who openly refused to obtain citizenship. Justice Powell opinion was that the statute furthered the New Yorks interest in holding educators responsible for promoting civic virtues and understanding in their students, which it could not be guaranteed by hiring alien teachers.
Effect of Ambach v. Norwick Case on Teaching in the US
This case impacts on how the contemporary education programs are designed and how the teaching should be delivered. As it stands from the case and further noted by Rebell (1989) the Supreme Court has emphasized the role of US schools in cultivating and promoting basic values in the children. The schools are the places where the fundamental values necessary to support a sound society characterized by shared attributes and beliefs of a civilized social order and a democratic political system are inculcated. This burden is further exerted on schools by the diminishing roles of churches and parents in shaping the values and characters of the young. Therefore, to achieve a sober society that upholds the virtues, the federal government and states will continue with the interest of distinguishing citizens and aliens in hiring their teachers owing to the degree of influence that instructors have on young pupils, who will be the future policy makers and actors in the US on adulthood. The teachers and schools will be closely monitored to ensure that they further democratic virtues and other beliefs in government, duties and rights.
Oyez. Org. (n.d.). Ambach v. Norwick. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from Oyez. Org: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1978/76-808
Rebell, M. A. (1989). Overview: Education and the law. Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 7 (2), 275-343.