Originally uploaded by MikeJonesPhoto
On April 20, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court began to hear arguments in a case testing what states might do to comply with the federal law requiring state public schools to teach children to speak English. What is the law and how does it work? The major court decision was Lau v. Nichols. That case began in 1970 when a San Francisco poverty lawyer learned a client’s child was failing because he could not understand the language of instruction. The lawyer filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Kenny Lau and 1,789 Chinese-background students that he found in the same predicament. The lawyer’s claim was “that these children were being denied education on equal terms.” The lawyer intentionally used the same language as the famous 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education, which upset the separate-but-equal Jim Crowe Laws. The San Francisco Federal court ruled that there was no disparate treatment and the School District was not to blame that the children only spoke Chinese. Unlike the Brown case, the State does not cause children to start school speaking Chinese. In the Brown case, the State forced children to be segregated.