Federal: Lau vs. Nichols (US Supreme Court)

Lau vs. Nichols (US Supreme Court, 1974)
When children arrive in school with little or no English-speaking ability, "sink or swim" instruction is a violation of their civil rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in this 1974 decision. Lau remains the major precedent regarding the educational rights of language minorities, although it is grounded in statute (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), rather than in the U.S. Constitution. At issue was whether school administrators may meet their obligation to provide equal educational opportunities merely by treating all students the same, or whether they must offer special help for students unable to understand English. Lower federal courts had absolved the San Francisco school district of any responsibility for minority children's "language deficiency." But a unanimous Supreme Court disagreed. Its ruling opened a new era in federal civil rights enforcement under the so-called "Lau Remedies." The decision was delivered by Justice William O. Douglas on January 21, 1974.   The following is an excerpt from the decision:

There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, and curriculum, for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.  Basic English skills are at the heart of what these schools teach.  Imposition of a requirement that, before a child can effectively participate in the educational program, he must have already acquired those basic skills is to make a mockery of public education.  We know that those who do not understand English are certain to find their classroom experiences wholly incomprehensible and in no way meaningful.  (U.S. Supreme Court, 414 U.S. 563).

adapted from:  http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/JWCRAWFORD/lau.htm

Lau Rememdies



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