On January 21, 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that English-only instruction in K–12 schools constitutes unlawful national origin discrimination against English language learners (ELLs). In Lau v. Nichols the Court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required schools to provide ELLs with English language instruction or instruction in their first language. Lau marks a pinnacle for the legal recognition of a right to bilingual education, but court decisions since Lau have limited many of Lau's legal conclusions.

The Background

In 1970 Mrs. Kam Wai Lau went to the Chinatown Neighborhood Legal Services office to obtain assistance with a housing dispute. During her intake interview she mentioned that her son, Kinney, was having a hard time in school because his classes were conducted completely in ...

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