1920 May 25

You Can’t Teach German in Nebraska!


Robert T. Meyer was arrested on this day for teaching German at the Zion Parochial School, a one-room school in Hampton, Nebraska. As a part of the anti-German hysteria aroused by World War I, Nebraska passed a law on April 9, 1919, outlawing the teaching of any foreign language and also the teaching the German language to any student who had not completed the 8th grade.

The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in Meyer v. Nebraska, on June 4, 1923, ruling that it infringed on the right of parents to control the education of their children.

The Meyer decision, together with Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925, which struck down a KKK-sponsored Oregon law that would have closed Catholic parochial schools, were early manifestations of what would become a major transformation of America: the penetration of constitutional principles into every phase of American life.

Visit Zion Lutheran Church in Hampton, Nebraska (click on “Info Center” for its history and brief mention of the case): http://www.zionhampton.com/

Learn more about the case: http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.law.032

Learn more about anti-German hysteria during World War I: http://www.authentichistory.com/1914-1920/2-homefront/4-hysteria/

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