ESL Laws

The following is a synthesis of major legislation, court rulings, and administrative regulations addressing language minority students. There is a substantial body of federal law established to insure the rights of national origin minority students.

Federal Laws

1964    Civil Rights Act, Title VI

“No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or nation’s origin…be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

1968    Constitution of the United States Fourteenth Amendment

“No state shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

1974    Equal Education Opportunities Act (EEOA)

“No state shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, by…the failure of an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs.”

2001    No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

Supreme Court

1974    Lau v. Nichols:

Equality of instruction denied to non-English speaking if special provisions are not made to aid them in learning English in schools.

1982    Plyler v. Doe:

States prohibited from denying free public education to children of undocumented immigrants, regardless of legal status. Schools are not agents for enforcing immigration law.

Federal Courts

1974    Serna v. Portales:

Court ordered school to make a curriculum available to students who lack English skills.

1978    Cintron v. Brentwood:

ESL students not be segregated completely from other students, but included in art, PE, and non-language based classes.




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