Plyler v. Doe Case Brief

Facts of the case

A revision to the Texas education laws in 1975 allowed the state to withhold from local school districts state funds for educating children of illegal aliens. This case was decided together with Texas v. Certain Named and Unnamed Alien Child.

Why is the case important?

In 1975 the Texas legislature passed a law withholding funds for the education of children of illegal aliens. This law also authorized local school districts to deny entry in the public schools of the state to these children.


Whether, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Texas may deny to undocumented school-age children the free public education that it provides to children who are citizens of the United States or legally admitted aliens?


No. If the State is to deny a discrete group of children the free public education it offers to others residing within its borders, that denial must be justified by a showing that it furthers some substantial state interest. The state does not adequately show such an interest in this case. The state must show that its classification of a subject class has been precisely tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest. The Court finds it difficult to understand the states goals in limiting the education of children of illegal immigrants. Whatever these interests may be they are insubstantial when looking at the costs of not educating these children for the State and the Nation.


The United States Supreme Court rejected the claim that illegal aliens were a suspect class. Unlike most of the classifications that had been recognized as suspect, entry into this class, by virtue of entry into this country, was the product of voluntary action. Indeed, entry into the class was itself a crime. However, plaintiffs were not comparably situated. The protection of the Fourteenth Amendment extended to anyone, citizen or stranger, who was subject to the laws of a state. Furthermore, denial of an education to plaintiffs posed an affront to one of the goals of the Equal Protection Clause , which was the abolition of governmental barriers presenting unreasonable obstacles to advancement on the basis of individual merit.

  • Advocates: Peter D. Roos Argued the cause for the appellees in Plyler v. Doe Peter A. Schey Argued the cause for appellees in the related case John C. Hardy Argued the cause for the appellants in Plyler v. Doe Richard L. Arnett Argued the cause for appellants in the related case
  • Appellant: Plyler
  • Appellee: Doe
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Tyler Independent School District
Citation: 457 US 202 (1982)
Argued: Dec 1, 1981
Decided: Jun 15, 1982
Plyler v. Doe Case Brief