Zelman v. Simmons-Harris

536 U.S. 639, 122 S.Ct. 2460 (2002)

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Zelman v. Simmons-Harris

United States Supreme Court
536 U.S. 639, 122 S.Ct. 2460 (2002)

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The state of Ohio established the Pilot Project Scholarship Program to provide educational choices to families with children residing in the Cleveland City School District. The program was enacted to help combat serious problems with Cleveland’s public schools. The program provides tuition aid for students in kindergarten through third grade, expanding each year through eighth grade, to attend a participating public or private school of their parent’s choosing. Additionally, the program provides tutorial aid for students who choose to remain enrolled in public school. The tuition aspect of the program permits any private school, whether religious or nonreligious, to participate and accept program students. Private schools must not discriminate against students or foster unlawful behavior towards others on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity. Program aid is assigned to students and families primarily on the basis of need. During the 1999-2000 school year 82% of participating private schools were religiously affiliated. None of the public schools in Cleveland elected to participate. Simmons-Harris (plaintiff) and a group of Ohio taxpayers brought suit against Zelman (defendant), the state official responsible for administering the program, in federal district court on the grounds that the program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to Simmons-Harris, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

Concurrence (Thomas, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Souter, J.)

Dissent (Breyer, J.)

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