Lau v. Nichols: Ensuring Equity in Education for Non-English Speakers - Case Study

Paper Type:  Case study
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1014 Words
Date:  2023-08-27


Lau v. Nichols (1974) was a case that examined whether schools funded by the federal government must offer additional English language courses to non-English-speaking learners. The ruling was that based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a school district in California getting federal funds must offer non-English-speaking learners with instruction in the English language. In this way, they would ensure that they obtain an equivalent education. The case concentrated on the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) that had close to 2900 non-English-speaking Chinese lineage learners. Some of these learners, roughly 1000, were given extra classes in the English language leaving out the rest (Bon, 2020). During the early 1970s, learners who lacked access to such forms of instruction filed a lawsuit demanding that SFUSD dishonored their privileges under the 14th Amendment's protection clause and Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Bon, 2020). They both prohibited discrimination based on race, national origins, or even color in any package or activity getting federal financial aid. The court's common resolution further pushed public schools to design plans aimed at increasing the linguistic abilities of learners whose English was a second language. It was also noted that failure to deliver extra English language instruction to learners who did not speak English deprived them of a chance to partake in public education. The California Education Code had certain aspects that depicted that children between 6-16 years should join full-time classes imparted in English (Spitzer, 2019). Also, a student could not graduate from a grade until they had acquired English expertise. Another prerequisite was that bilingual instruction was endorsed provided it did not obstruct with regular English course instruction (Spitzer, 2019). However, based on these strategies, the court established that the school could not assert it was offering non-native speakers the same admission to learning as the native speakers.

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Reflection on Relevance during that Time

When the law was passed, it had particular effects. The law had an impact on access to competent teachers. There was a decline of about 50% in the numbers of qualified bilingual teachers (Gandara, 2020). As a result, the available resources needed to meet the requirements of the English learners depleted. On the other hand, it is essential to note that the number of programs for students with limited English speaking capabilities increased, which forced the need for cost-effective bilingual education programs. The result was that the non-English-speaking learners were combined, which increased segregation of classes and even the public schools (Gandara, 2020). As such, this increased the element of discrimination in schools against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It may further be purported that the rights of the non-native English speaking learners were promoted as a result of the verdict. Initially, the language rule for the English-language learners had become inconsistent and was further driven by anti-immigration reaction and American aggression. The limited supply of bilingual educators and inadequate assessments was also reviewed due to the ruling and, in the end, ensured that there would be a smooth transition for learners whose first language was not English into education. The verdict further began the journey of providing the right textbooks for English-language learners and even the teachers. Besides, the need for bilingual education in schools was now necessary as it promoted equal access to education. The need for linguistic diversity was seen as essential and more acceptable. The growth of dual engagement programs was bound to increase in the future. This would assist in lessening the occurrence of discrimination among learners in schools based on their race or even national origins. The aspect of equality in education would be attained easily, as well.

Reflection on Relevance Currently

The terms stipulated in Lau v. Nichols (1974) served as a blueprint for most school districts that had received orders from courts to design programs for the English-language learners nearly over the past five decades. Nonetheless, as school districts and cities have grown more varied due to immigration, it is essential to note that most of them are still struggling with or even resisting accommodating the Filipino, Latino, and Chinese students, among others whom English is not their first language. Lau v. Nichols (1974) has then advocated for more new plans to ensure equality of education acquisition among all learners regardless of their race or origin.

The education of English-language learners is still a significant issue currently. These learners have conventionally joined relatively few schools found in a few clusters of districts across the US. They have then been viewed as the obligation of a squad of specialists-English as Second Language (ESL) teachers. Another element to note is that the most common approaches to teaching English-language learners view these children as a separate group of students who can join the general education population after attaining a certain level of English language ability. On the other hand, the media has been seen to traditionally concentrate on the politics and policies of the boundary areas. Still, the utmost growth in English-language learners is in areas that may be entirely unanticipated. The areas with the most substantial numbers of immigrants remain to be Illinois, California, Texas, New York, and Florida. However, states with the most massive growth of English-language learners include Indiana, Kentucky, Wyoming, and Nebraska (Mock, 2015). It then indicates that minor groups of English-language learners will be welcomed into schools and classrooms that are not equipped for their influx. Some learners may gain from this form of involvement background over a particular time while other schools and districts may be overwhelmed as they try to meet the requirements of this different population.


Bon, S. (2020). Lau v. Nichols | law case. Retrieved 9 June 2020, from

Gándara, P. (2020). The impact of English-only instructional policies on English learners | LD Topics | LD OnLine. Retrieved 9 June 2020, from

Mock, B. (2015). 40 years after the landmark Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court ruling, schools are still figuring out how to help immigrant students. Retrieved 9 June 2020, from

Spitzer, E. (2019). Lau v. Nichols: Are schools required to provide bilingual instruction?. Retrieved 9 June 2020, from

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Lau v. Nichols: Ensuring Equity in Education for Non-English Speakers - Case Study. (2023, Aug 27). Retrieved from

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