Office of Multilingual Learning
360 Colborne St.
Saint Paul, MN 55102
With the recognition that the key factors of educational failure for minority students are linguistic and cultural differences, an important ruling was made in a legal case brought on behalf of ELL students in San Francisco Public Schools in 1974. The U.S. Supreme Court “Lau vs. Nichols” case ruled that school districts have a duty to see that students are not discriminated against because they do not speak English. Here is an excerpt from the court’s 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).