Lau they receive meaningful education. The District

Lau v. Nichols in 1974 and Castañeda v. Pickard in 1981 are two US Supreme Court decisions that significantly affected the education and civil rights of English Language Learners (ELL). a The legal struggle for an ELL Education began in the schools of San Francisco’s Chinatown and concluded in the US Supreme Court. Lau v. Nichols was a landmark case in the US Supreme Court decision. It defended the educational rights of not only the Chinese Speaking immigrant students but all of the ELLs. On January 21st, 1974 the Supreme Court under Justice William Douglas unanimously (9-0) delivered a ruling based on the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUD) receiving federal funds must provide equal opportunities and equal access to non-English speaking students with instruction in the English language to ensure that they receive meaningful education. The District signed a consent agreeing to provide bilingual education to the Chinese, Filipino and Hispanic students. Intertwined social and economic factors drove this historic case. Majority of Chinese-American immigrants settle in Chinatown, San Francisco that is crowded and impoverished. These students are mostly poor, and their home language is not English. They enter public schools with no English. Thus they were fated to poor achievement, illiteracy, and high dropout rates. SFUD placed them in special education classes, less academic tracks and compelled them to repeat grades without making the same grade level comprehensible. This practice led to having the students feel stigmatized and made to feel inferior. Their inability to communicate in English became a disgrace that led to the student’s low self-worth. Before the lawsuit, the Chinese-American students received instructions in English that are a language they did not understand. They were put in the general education of mainstream classrooms to sink or swim regardless of their lack of proficiency in English. They asserted that their children are not learning what they are supposed to learn in school with “English-only” practice and the schools they are obliged to attend are not places of education or opportunity. The Chinese-Americans community met with the District to propose solutions and attended board meetings to petition for bilingual education, however, the district’s response was one hour of ESOL classes daily, but not all students received this instruction. On May 1970, to seek relief from unequal educational opportunities, Kimmy Timmon Lau and approximately 1,800 Chinese-American students filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Unified School District and its president because the district failed to provide these students English La language in instruction. They claimed the District violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which forbids the states to restrict the basic rights of citizens or other persons, and Section 601 of the CRA which prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, or national origin in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance (Lau v. Nichols, 1974). They were denied an education as well as the right to “equal protection under the law. They were taught in a language they could not understand although the district claimed these students “received equal treatment because the district had provided them with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum as they had provided other students of similar ages in that district” (Lau v. Nichols, excerpts, p. 2). Castañeda v. Pickard (1981) is the second historical court decision affecting he education in the English language (Lyons, 1992). Mexican-American parents and their children alleged that Raymondville Texas Independent School District’s (RISD) policies and practices violated the Fourteenth Amendment, the CRA of 1964, and the EEOA of 1974. They claimed RISD discriminated against the children because they were taught in a segregated classroom based on their ethnicity and RISD neglected to set up adequate bilingual instruction programs, which could have supported his children in surpassing language barriers which kept them from equally participating in the classroom. Students in both cases share a common factor of economic burden: poor, living and working together in specific racial or ethnic communities, excluded and discriminated from the political, social, and economic developments of this country. They share a common factor of social burden: sole fluency in a foreign language and ignored by their schools. Their school districts have a different notion of equality that is ironically discriminating. Bernard Williams (2005) posited two notions of equality. First is that all people are equal and must be treated identically. Second is that all people are equal and equality demands a different treatment. Students from Lau vs. Nichols suffered from the first notion, while students from Pinkard v. Castaneda suffered from the second notion. Students also suffered outright and subtle discrimination. It is outright discrimination when taking of the same group of students and treating them differently. It is subtle discrimination when taking students who are different and treating them the same. The cases have a significant impact on the whole education and curriculum of ELL’s in the English Language. The Lau v. Nichols’ decision led the Congress to enact the EEOA of 1974. It prohibits the deliberate discrimination of race, color, gender and national origin in public schools and required school districts to take suitable action to remove the barriers such as language to students’ equal participation in all instructional programs. The Office for Civil Rights published The Lau Remedies of 1975. These are guidelines, specific methods and approach to assists the school districts in complying with the rulings of Lau v. Nichols. It outlined specific steps in the identification, placement, and exit of ELL students from the language programs. It guided school districts in identifying the professional standards of ELL teachers. It required to have English-as-a-second-language instruction across all content areas until the student achieved sufficient English proficiency in learning effectively with English as the only language of instruction. Pinkard v. Castaneda’s case provided more specific guidelines as a template to determine if a school district is complying with the Lau remedies. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals established a three-step criteria to check if school districts program are doing the “appropriate action” for ELL students: 1) it must be based on a “sound educational theory”, 2) it must be with adequate resources and personnel, 3) it must reflect sound practices language and content areas. Both cases eased the tthe ransition into education for ELLs and guaranteed them an opportunity for a “meaningful education” because school districts now and then are required to provide a bridge to the curriculum for ELLs by integrating English proficiency lessons across all content areas regarding academic language, academic vocabulary, and sentence structure.


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