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Rendell-Baker v. Kohn

United States Supreme Court
457 U.S. 830 (1982)


Facts

Kohn (defendant) was the director of New Perspectives School, a private non-profit school devoted to educating “at-risk” high school students. Kohn’s school received students on the recommendation of public school districts. When a public school district recommended that a student be sent to the New Perspectives School, that district provided public funding for the student’s education at the new school. Additionally, Kohn’s school received public funding from the government and other sources and was subject to Massachusetts state regulations. Rendell-Baker (plaintiff) was a counselor at the New Perspectives School who was discharged in June 1978 because of a dispute over the role of a student-staff council in making hiring decisions. The five other plaintiffs were teachers at New Perspectives School that all opposed Rendell-Baker’s discharge and wrote letters to the school board demanding Kohn’s resignation. When the board refused to dismiss Kohn, students picketed the president of the board’s house. The five other plaintiffs also wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper expressing their belief that Rendell-Baker was wrongly discharged. Kohn discharged them the next day. Rendell-Baker and the other teachers then brought suit in district court alleging that Kohn violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by discharging them because of their exercise of their First Amendment right of free speech and without due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed Rendell-Baker’s action but denied a motion to dismiss the teachers’ action. The court of appeals reversed, holding that no state action was present. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

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Concurrence (White, J.)

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Dissent (Marshall, J.)

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