State of Nebraska

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State of Nebraska

Robert T. Meyer

Meyer v.

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see".-Mark Twain.

State of NebraskaArgued Feb. 23, 1923 Decided June 4, 1923

Where and When

On April 9, 1919, Nebraska enacted a statute called Siman Act, a restriction relating to the teaching of foreign languages in the state of Nebraska”.

This was one of the very first cases in which the Court found that people had liberty rights not specifically listed in the Constitution.

In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court held that it was indeed a violation of the Due Process Clause (an violation of people’s liberty).

Opposing counsel countered that "it is the ambition of the State to have its entire population 100 per cent American.

Then he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. His lead attorney was Arthur Mullen, an Irish Catholic and a prominent Democrat, who had earlier failed in his attempt to obtain an injunction against enforcement of the Siman Act from the Nebraska State Supreme Court. Oral arguments expressed conflicting interpretations of the World War I experience. Mullen attributed the law to "hatred, national bigotry and racial prejudice engendered by the World War."

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed his conviction by a vote of 4 to 2.

Meyer was tried and convicted in the district court for Hamilton county, Nebraska, with violation of the Siman Act and fined $25 ($294 in today's dollars).

The Hamilton County Attorney entered the classroom and discovered Parpart reading from the Bible in German.

On May 25, 1920, Robert T. Meyer, while an instructor in Zion Parochial School, a one-room schoolhouse in Hampton, Nebraska, taught the subject of reading in the German language to 10-year-old Raymond Parpart.

Siman Act: "Section 1. No person, individually or as a teacher, shall, in any private, denominational, parochial or public school, teach any subject to any person in any language other than the English language.""Sec. 2. Languages, other than the English language, may be taught as languages only after a pupil shall have attained and successfully passed the eighth grade as evidenced by a certificate of graduation issued by the county superintendent of the county in which the child resides.""Sec. 3. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, shall be subject to a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25), nor more than one hundred dollars ($100) or be confined in the county jail for any period not exceeding thirty days for each offense."

What Happened:

The Nebraska statute was enacted shortly after World War I in response to widespread hostility against Nebraska's large German American community that had arisen as a result of the war.




This court case was one of the first ones to take please in the history of Bilingual Education. Is because of this teacher and many other brave people our students can have access to bilingual and sheltered instruction today.











Zion Lutheran School

The State of Nebraska (1923)

An instructor in Zion Parochial School who was charged because he unlawfully taught reading in the German language to a 10 year old child who had not attained and successfully passed the 8th grade.



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