Lau v. Nichols

PETITIONER: Kinney Kinmon Lau, et al.
RESPONDENT: Alan H. Nichols, et al.
LOCATION: San Francisco Unified School District

DOCKET NO.: 72-6520
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 414 US 563 (1974)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1973
DECIDED: Jan 21, 1974

ADVOCATES:
Edward H. Steinman -
J. Stanley Pottinger -
Thomas M. O’conner -

Facts of the case

In 1971, the San Francisco, California school system was integrated. As a result, the San Francisco school system absorbed over 2,856 students of Chinese ancestry who were not proficient in English. Of these students, the school system only provided about 1,000 with supplemental English language courses. Classes were taught exclusively in English.

Lau and other students of Chinese dissent who did not speak English and received no supplemental English courses brought a class action suit against the officials in the San Francisco Unified School District. The students claimed that the failure to provide supplemental English classes constituted an unequal educational opportunity in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The district court denied relief, holding that the policies of the school system did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, and a hearing en banc was denied. The students appealed the appellate court's decision.

Question

Does a school district violate the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it teaches exclusively in English and fails to provide non-English speaking students with any supplemental English language classes?

Media for Lau v. Nichols

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 1973 in Lau v. Nichols

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 21, 1974 in Lau v. Nichols

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Brennan.

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 72-6520, Lau against Nichols will be announced by Mr. Justice Douglas.

William O. Douglas:

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

It is a class action brought by Non-English speaking Chinese student in public schools of San Fransisco, the defendants being the officials who are responsible for the operation of the school system, and they seek relief against what they call the unequal educational opportunities which are alleged to violate the requirements of federal law.

There is no specific remedy urged upon us.

Teaching English to the students of Chinese ancestry who do not speak the language is one possible choice, giving instruction to this group in Chinese is another.

There may still be other remedies.

The petitioner asked only that the Board of Education be directed to apply its expertise to the problem and rectify this situation.

The District Court denied relief.

The Court of Appeals reformed and we reverse the Court of Appeals.

We do not reach any question under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that has been much vigorously argued.

Our decision rests entirely upon the Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which excludes from participation in Federal financial assistance recipients of aid could discriminate against racial groups and as we analyze the regulations done with this act, such a showing has been made.

Accordingly we reverse and remand the case for further proceedings.

Mr. Justice Stewart has filing an opinion concurring in the result in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Blackmun joined.

Mr. Justice White has concurred in the result, and Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed an opinion concurring in the result in which Chief Justice has joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Douglas.