OK, so, last night, while everyone else was reading about Michael Jackson’s death, I was online reading articles about the Supreme Court’s decisions, also announced yesterday. Most of the coverage related to the decision regarding strip searches in schools, but this is the one that I was more interested in, Horne v. Flores.
Basically, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts need to reevaluate the judicial oversight of the Nogales School District (originally under court oversight due to inadequacies in the English-Language-Learner program). What, you ask, does this have to do with social workers?
It’s my analysis that this ruling may erode the role of the courts in serving as a check against institutional abuse and neglect–a role that they have played to the significant advantage of social workers’ vulnerable constituencies for decades, most notably in desegregation cases, in the deinstitutionalization and mental health rights movements, and in the welfare rights struggle. It is all too true that schools, prisons, health care systems, social service agencies, and other institutions often fail those they are charged to serve, and that advocates have long turned to the judicial branch of the U.S. government to redress these failings. In this decision, written by the conservative majority of the Court, it seems that that judicial perogative has been somewhat curtailed, and I fear that that may represent another door closing on our path to justice.