Cleary Gottlieb Files Amicus Brief in Support of Civics Education

February 1, 2021

Cleary Gottlieb filed a brief on behalf of Generation Citizen and Mikva Challenge as amici curiae in support of a group of 14 Rhode Island students challenging the adequacy of civics education provided in state public schools.

The students brought a class action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island against Rhode Island’s governor and other state officials, arguing that the state failed to provide students with “an education that is adequate to prepare them to function productively as civic participants capable of voting, serving on a jury, understanding economic, social, and political systems sufficiently to make informed choices, and to participate effectively in civic activities.”

In a 55-page decision on October 13, 2020, Judge William E. Smith dismissed the students’ claims for failure to state a claim under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. In doing so, the court observed that the plaintiffs’ substantive complaints merited attention, because “[w]hat these young people seem to recognize is that American democracy is in peril. Its survival, and their ability to reap the benefit of living in a country with robust freedoms and rights, a strong economy, and a moral center protected by the rule of law is something that citizens must cherish, protect, and constantly work for. We would do well to pay attention to their plea.”

Generation Citizen is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2010 dedicated to ensuring that every student in the United States receives a comprehensive, effective civics education through the promotion of informed civic participation. Mikva Challenge is a nationwide civic leadership program founded on the idea that a single positive civic experience in youth can form a path to a lifetime of civic engagement.

In their brief, Generation Citizen and Mikva Challenge support the plaintiffs’ appeal, presenting both objective research and experience-based information regarding the decline in focus on civics education in the United States and the resulting impact on civic participation, particularly among low-income and marginalized groups.

To read the brief, click here.