Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68 (1979)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68 (1979)

Ambach v. Norwick

No. 76-808

Argued January 10, 1979
Decided April 17, 1979
441 U.S. 68



Held: A New York statute forbidding permanent certification as a public school teacher of any person who is not a United States citizen unless that person has manifested an intention to apply for citizenship does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 72-81.

(a) As a general principle, some state functions are so bound up with the operation of the State as a governmental entity as to permit exclusion from those functions of all persons who have not become part of the process of self-government. Accordingly, a State is required to justify its exclusion of aliens from such governmental positions only "by a showing of some rational relationship between the interest sought to be protected and the limiting classification." Foley v. Connelie, 435 U.S. 291, 296. Pp 73-74.

(b) This rule for governmental functions, which is an exception to the stricter general standard applicable to classifications based on alienage, rests on important principles inherent in the Constitution. The distinction between citizens and aliens, though ordinarily irrelevant to private activity, is fundamental to the definition and government of a State, and the references to such distinction in the Constitution itself indicate that the status of citizenship was meant to have significance in the structure of our government. It is because of this special significance of citizenship that governmental entities, when exercising the functions of government, have wider latitude in limiting the participation of noncitizens. P. 75.

(c) Taking into consideration the role of public education and the degree of responsibility and discretion teachers possess in fulfilling that role, it is clear that public school teachers come well within the "governmental function" principle recognized in Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634, and Foley v. Connelie, supra, and, accordingly, the Constitution requires only that a citizenship requirement applicable to teaching in the public school bear a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest. Pp. 75-80.

(d) Here, the statute in question does bear a rational relationship to the State’s interest in furthering its educational goals, especially with respect to regarding all teachers as having an obligation to promote civic virtues and understanding in their classes, regardless of the subject taught. Pp. 80-81.

417 F.Supp. 913, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 81.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68 (1979) in 441 U.S. 68 441 U.S. 69. Original Sources, accessed December 10, 2023,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68 (1979), in 441 U.S. 68, page 441 U.S. 69. Original Sources. 10 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68 (1979). cited in 1979, 441 U.S. 68, pp.441 U.S. 69. Original Sources, retrieved 10 December 2023, from