When COVID-19 hit U.S. shores, it was not long until state governments shuttered both public and private schools. As the closures continued, some parents, hoping to get their children back into the classroom, challenged the constitutionality of school closures, alleging that the closures abridged their due process right to direct the upbringing of their children—commonly referred to as the Meyer-Pierce right. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to articulate the contours of this right or the level of constitutional protection it commands. With little guidance from the Court, lower courts have come to differing conclusions about how to interpret the right. As such, it is unclear whether school closures do indeed unconstitutionally abridge parental rights.
This Note analyzes the history of the Meyer-Pierce right, how it has been interpreted over time, and how courts have come to differing conclusions about it. Specifically, this Note investigates how these differing views have come to bear in the context of school closures by investigating the Ninth Circuit’s since-vacated opinion in Brach v. Newsom. To help resolve the confusion and disagreement among circuits and to promote consistency within Meyer-Pierce case law, this Note proposes a new framework for interpreting the Meyer-Pierce right. Applying this framework to school closures, this Note concludes that the Brach majority’s conclusion was correct and outlines circumstances under which school closures may indeed unconstitutionally abridge parental rights.