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The U.S. Supreme Court--splitting six to three--yesterday upheld New York's Feinberg Law.
The Feinberg Law requires the State's Board of Regents to list subversive organizations. It states that membership in any of the listed organizations is in itself evidence for disqualification for any job in the schools. The law refers to the Communist Party as advocating violent overthrow of the government.
In the majority opinion, Justice Minton stated: "School authorities have the right and the duty to screen officials, teachers, and employees as to their fitness to maintain the integrity of the schools as part of ordered society."
Pre and Con
Pointing out that the teacher works "in a sensitive area in a school room," a state may "very properly inquire into the company" kept by the persons it hires as teachers "to preserve the integrity of the schools."
Those who made up the majority were Chief Justice Vinson, Justices Reed, Jackson, Burton, and Clark. In the minority were Justices Douglas, Black, and Frankfurter.
Justice Douglas, in dissent, said: "The Feinberg Law proceeds on a principle repugnant to our society--guilt by association. A teacher is disqualified because of her membership in an organization found to be 'subversive.' The very threat of such procedure is certain to raise havoc with academic freedom. Youthful indiscretions, mistaken causes, misguided enthusiasm--all long forgotten--become ghosts of a harrowing present."
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