United States District & Bankruptcy Courts
2018 Civics Contest
2018 Civics Contest

150 Years after Ratification of the 14th Amendment: What Does Equal Protection Mean to Students?


The Ninth Circuit is pleased to announce its 2018 Civics Contest.  Students from across the circuit are invited to participate in this exciting event.  

Ratified on July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides, in part, that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Over the past 150 years, Congress and the courts have applied this “Equal Protection Clause” to our right to equal  educational opportunities.

Students should consider how the Equal Protection Clause applies in high schools, colleges and graduate schools, whether in admissions, classrooms or on athletic fields. Individual students can express their thoughts and ideas in an essay of between 500 and 1,000 words. Individuals and teams of up to three students can produce a 3-5 minute video on the theme. A student may submit both an essay and video. A student may submit only one essay and be involved in the production of only one video.

The essay or video should: 1) Demonstrate an understanding of the historical background of the Equal Protection Clause; 2) Explain the constitutional powers and rights relevant to the noteworthy court cases and laws mentioned below; and 3) Discuss the important role of the Judicial Branch in preserving the rights of Americans to equal education.

The contest website is now open.  Contest submission open February 1 and closes on April 1, 2018.  Contest entry deadline has been extended to 11:59 pm PST on Sunday, April 8. 

The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho is hosting a local contest to determine the finalists who will go on to compete for cash prizes in the circuit contest. To be eligible to compete in the local contest, students must reside in the State of Idaho.

The circuit will be presenting cash prizes for the essay and video contests -1st place: $2,000 2nd place: $1,000 3rd place: $500.  Local district winners in each category will receive -1st place: $1,000 2nd place: $500 3rd place: $250.

Should you become a finalist in the contest, you will be required to submit a release form allowing the Ninth Circuit to publish your essay in print publications and on court public websites. In addition, contest winners will be required to provide and authorize use of photographs of themselves in contest-related promotional materials.

Why enter one contest when you can enter two with the same entry?


The Federal Bar Association is also sponsoring a Civics Contest on the same topic.  Please visit their contest page for information regarding rules, submission deadlines, prizes and contestant eligibility.  The FBA Contest is now closed. 

For more information about the district contest, please contact: Kirsten Wilkinson (208) 334-9464/Kirsten_Wilkinson@id.uscourts.gov.

2018 Civics Contest Flyer
FBA Civics Contest flyer
FBA Civics Contest information

Noteworthy Cases and Laws

• Mendez v. Westminster School District, decided in 1947, in which the placement of Mexican-American students into separate “Mexican schools” was found to violate their rights under the Equal Protection Clause;

• Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, decided in 1954, in which the placement of white and African-American students in different public schools on the basis of race was also found to violate the Equal Protection Clause;

• Lau v. Nichols, decided in 1974, in which the lack of supplemental language instruction in public school for students with limited English proficiency was found to have violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964;

• Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, decided in 1978, and Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, decided in 2003, in which certain affirmative action policies used by two universities to increase minority enrollment were upheld while others were struck down; and

• Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, decided in 2017, in which public schools were required, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to provide disabled students with opportunities to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress, such as grade-level advancement.


Congress applied the Equal Protection Clause to education by enacting laws governing state school programs or activities:

• Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits exclusion of a student based solely on race, color or national origin;

• Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1972, which prohibits exclusion of a student solely on the basis of sex;

• The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits exclusion of a student based solely on the basis of a disability; and

• The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990, which provides protections and educational opportunities for students with disabilities.