Constitutional Law Bilingual Education the Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

The court held that the district court's refusal to reopen the case and receive additional evidence after the remand from the court was not error. The court did not remand with directions to reopen the case and retry it. The only direction was that the district court was to make more detailed findings on the question of allegedly discriminatory hiring practices that adversely affected the educational opportunities afforded the Mexican-American pupils in a claim under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d et seq. The district court considered various and different matters, and also made comprehensive findings on the school district's hiring practices. The district court concluded that the school district had not engaged in any discriminatory employment practices which adversely affected the quality of educational opportunities afforded the Mexican-American children. The court upheld the judgment of the district court, saying that the school district had not engaged in any discriminatory employment practices which had unfavorably affected the quality of educational opportunities given the Mexican-American children. The Court held that the district court's findings were not erroneous (Otero v. Mesa County Valley School District, 1980).

Another case is that of Lau v. Nichols (1974). In this case The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held for respondent school system in petitioner students' action alleging that the school system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and § 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d. The students appealed.

The students, who attended schools within the school system, were of Chinese ancestry and did not speak English. Some of the students received supplemental classes in English, but over half of the students did not receive any instruction. The students initiated a class action against the school system alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and § 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The appellate court held that there was no constitutional violation or violation of § 601. The appellate court held that all students had different educational advantages and disadvantages (Lau v. Nichols, 1974).

On appeal, the United States Supreme Court concluded that the school system violated § 601. Section 601 prohibited discrimination based upon race, color, or national origin in any program receiving federal financial assistance. The school system denied the students the opportunity to obtain the education received by other students in the school system by not providing adequate English courses. The students received fewer educational benefits than the English-speaking majority within the school system. The Court reversed the decision and remanded for further proceedings because the school system violated § 601 by discriminating against the students while receiving federal financial assistance (Lau v. Nichols, 1974). The court set forth the idea that basic English skills are at the very core of what public schools teach. Imposition of a requirement that, before a child could effectively participate in an educational program, they must already have acquired those basic skills would make a mockery of public education. They felt that those who did not understand English would be certain to find their educational experiences beyond understanding and in no way meaningful (Delgado, Perea and Stefancic, 2008).

The decision of the court in this case guaranteed children the opportunity to have a meaningful education regardless of their language background. If a student did not understand English instruction, they were thought to be deprived of a meaningful education. The case also said that language-minority students must be ensured access to the same curriculum that is provided to their English-speaking peers. This must be done by way of affirmative steps such as bilingual instruction, English as a second language (ESL) classes, or other approaches. It also stated that all school districts that had more than 20 ESL students from a single language background were required to submit periodic reports to the Office of Civil Rights specifying the types of programs that they were offering to children of language minorities (Bilingual Education, 2006).

The last case is that of Serna v. Portales (1974). In this case the Appellant public schools challenged the decision of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico that established a plan to remedy discrimination against Spanish-speaking students in a class action brought by the parents of Hispanic students.

A class of parents of Hispanic students brought an action against the local public schools alleging discrimination in education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d, and U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The district court found that there was evidence that Hispanic students did not receive an adequate education because efforts were not made to incorporate them into the schools by providing bilingual education and cultural awareness. The district court ordered the public schools to create a plan in which to remedy the situation. The parents objected to parts of the public schools' plan so the district court incorporated the parents' concerns into its decision. The public schools appealed, and the court affirmed. The court held that the parents were properly representative of a class under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 and they also had a personal stake in the action. The court held that the district court's action was proper given the longstanding tradition of discrimination by the public schools and the creation of a mere token plan as a remedy. The court affirmed the district court's decision (Serna v. Portales, 1974).

In this case the court held that the 10th Circuit Court Appeals had found that Spanish students' achievement levels were well below those of their Anglo counterparts. They also ordered Portales Municipal Schools to implement a bilingual/bicultural curriculum to accommodate non-English speaking students. Because of this the Texas Education Agency Bilingual/ESL Unit revised its procedures for assessing achievement in August of 2004 in order to hire bilingual school personnel (Bilingual Education, 2006).

Also in this case the Supreme Court found that the State of California required English to be the basic language of instruction in their public schools. Before a student could received a high school diploma they must meet the standards of proficiency in English. A student who did not understand the English language and was not provided a bilingual education was thought to be precluded from a meaningful education (Delgado, Perea and Stefancic, 2008).

The fundamental question in all of these cases is do schoolchildren and their parents have a right to public education in Spanish for all or part of the school day? How does a school take a group immigrant youth who cannot speak, much less read or write English and educate them so that the vast majority is able to pass demanding standardized examinations in content areas such as math, science, history and English? How does such a school achieve a drop-out rate significantly lower than the local average for comparable students, a graduation rate significantly higher than the local average for comparable students, and an excellent attendance record and college acceptance rate? These are all very important questions that have been at the heart of the bilingual education debate for years (Garcia and Bartlett, 2007)?

Court cases over the years have both empowered and disempowered Latino's in their struggle for education in the United States. Legislation has also been enacted surrounding this issue. California passed Proposition 227 in 1998. This initiative significantly altered the way in which English Learner's in the state were taught. It required that these students be taught in English through a structured English Immersion program that would last for a year. After that the students would be mainstreamed into English-language classrooms (Effects of the Implementation of Proposition 227 on the Education of English Learners, K-12, 2006).

California Proposition 227 states that:

all California students must be taught in English as quickly as possible that all non- English speaking students must be placed in a short-term English immersion program. Students generally are not to spend more than one year in the program all public education must be conducted in English and severely restricts the use of their native language for the instruction of English learners.

People against the proposition have pointed out that one year after the English-only program was implemented; only 7% of students who had participated in the program were considered fluent in the English language. The 2004 test results for CA public schools showed that the achievement gap was widening for English learners in CA not shrinking at the proponents had stated. In 2004, the test scores of English learners declined in a majority of the grade levels and subjects. Some feel that Proposition 227 does not provide solutions to the challenges of cultural integration of language minorities, but only makes things worse (Bilingual Education, 2006).

In regards to the case of Valeria G. v. Wilson (1998), a civil rights group filed an injunction claiming that the one-year immersion program did not overcome language barriers in order to provide students with…

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