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Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

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Does Treating People Equally Mean Treating Them the Same?

Directions

Think about the following questions and discuss or write your answers:

  1. Does treating people equally mean treating them the same?
  2. What would it mean to treat people equally in the following situations?
    1. A man and a woman apply for a job as a shoe sales person. What would the employer have to do to treat these two applicants equally?
    2. Two patients come to a doctor with a headache. The doctor determines that one patient has a brain tumor and the other patient has a run-of-the mill headache. What would the doctor have to do to treat these two patients equally?
    3. Two students try to enter a school that has stairs leading to the entrance. One student is handicapped and the other is not. What would the school have to do to treat these two students equally?
    4. Two students live in the same school district. The students are the same age, but they are different races. What does the school district have to do to treat these two students equally?

Discrimination occurs when some people are treated differently than others because of their membership in a group, based on, for example, race, age, gender, or religion.  When courts consider cases of discrimination, they look at the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to determine whether that alleged discrimination is reasonable and legal or whether it violates the Constitution. 

"No state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
- Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868)

 
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