September 21, 2020

Justice Ginsburg left indelible mark on equity, education

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Caption: Photo illustration via NEA.

In vigils around the country, mourners honored Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — her life, her 27 years of service on the Supreme Court and the gains she helped achieve for education, women’s rights, and desegregation, among many other achievements.

Teachers and students were among those who spoke out sorrowfully and hopefully at some of the New York State vigils, talking about Ginsburg’s role as a stalwart vote for sex equity in schools, desegregation, and separation of church and state.

In the North Country, an online candlelit vigil for the Brooklyn-born Supreme Court justice drew educators, students, local and state judges, and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who has spoken of her legacy of justice.

Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg had worked as a professor at Columbia University and Rutgers University at a time when no firm in New York City would hire a female lawyer.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle called out Ginsburg’s role as an educator.

“As educators, we know that she is now considered, and always will be, a teacher and champion of racial and social justice. Her loss is more than a seat on the nine-justice Supreme Court; her loss is devastating and will be felt for generations. NEA members will honor her legacy by redoubling our efforts to fight for justice,” said Pringle.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Justice Ginsburg is an icon, calling her loss “incalculable.”

“Long before she became notorious, she broke barriers most never even dreamed to approach. Her unfailing sense of justice reminded us of its awesome power, and her unbending sense of duty reminded us to remain committed to protecting our democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law,” Weingarten said.

Ginsburg weighed in on numerous notable education cases, including:

  • United States v. Virginia, the 1996 case that struck down the state’s exclusion of women from the Virginia Military Institute. “A prime part of the history of our Constitution ... is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded," Ginsburg wrote for the court. “There is no reason to believe that the admission of women capable of all the activities required of VMI cadets would destroy the Institute rather than enhance its capacity to serve the ‘more perfect Union.’”
  • Missouri v. Jenkins, her first opinion in an education case. Justice Ginsburg joined the principal dissent in a 5-4 decision that overturned a sweeping desegregation plan for the Kansas City, Mo., school district after only seven years. “Given the deep, inglorious history of segregation in Missouri, to curtail desegregation at this time and in this manner is an action at once too swift and too soon,” Ginsburg wrote.

Read more about Justice Ginsburg’s impact on education at


AFT’s free Share My Lesson website includes prepared lesson plans on Justice Ginsburg, including this one on gender equality.