Lau v. Nichols 1973 Bilingual Education Breakthrough

The US Supreme Court heard arguments for the case of Lau v. Nichols on December 10, 1973.  During this landmark case on bilingual education, the Court promulgated one of its first interpretations of the term “appropriate action.” The ruling held that a school district based in San Francisco violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by denying students of Chinese descent opportunities to participate in classes.  The Justices decided that providing the Chinese American students with the same textbooks, desks, and teachers as the native English speakers was not appropriate under the law.  Appropriate action required further measures, such as instruction in both Chinese and English, to ensure that the non-English speaking students were able to learn English. Lau v. Nichols is part of the history of bilingual education in US law; the next important decision featured Spanish-speaking students in Castañeda v. Pickard in 1981.  (Please see Meyer v. Nebraska, May 25, 1920, for more information on the history of bilingual education case law.)