Debra P. v. Turlington
United States Court of Appeals, Firth Circuit
Argued July 12, 1979 Decided May 4, 1981


Debra P, brought suit against the state of Florida because of the requirement that students had to pass a statewide test over basic skills in order for students to receive a high school diploma. The argument was that the test was unconstitutional because it was against the fourteenth amendment under due process. In the court case, GOSS ET v. LOPEZ, the fourteenth amendment was also at question. The plaintiff argued that the final in classes should be given by the individual’s teacher and not the state because the test was bias. Out the group of students who did not pass, statics from 1977 showed that 78% of black students failed the test and only 25% of white students failed.

Decision and Rationale:

The outcome was, “the state may not deprive its high school seniors of the economic and educational benefits of a high school diploma until it has demonstrated that the SSAT II is a fair test of that which is taught in its classrooms and that the racially discriminatory impact is not due to the educational deprivation in the "dual school" years.” In addition, each district will create a minimum standard for all schools in the district. Then a basic assessment maybe applied for students to pass to graduate only after the assessment passes a state board.

Impact on Teaching:

Statewide assessments where implemented for all schools in given states, such as Florida. Because each school had the same test, the schools were compared more to each other. This established what is known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in which schools are measured at how well their process is doing. This holds teachers individually accountable for the performance of their students. This is to ensure that each student receives the education that he or she deserves Schools do not have to give a high school diploma to students who do not pass their entire graduation test.

Applicable Quiz Question:

According to the plaintiff in, Debra P. v. Turlington, the Florida graduation requirement was unconstitutional against what amendment?
A) Tenth
B) Ninth
C) Fourteenth
D) Thirteenth