“For a fair selection , everybody has to take the same exam: Please climb that tree.”
Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), was a civil rights case that was brought by Chinese American students living in San Francisco, California who had limited English proficiency. The students claimed that they were not receiving special help in school due to their inability to speak English, which they argued they were entitled to under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because of its ban on educational discrimination on the basis of national origin. Finding that the lack of linguistically appropriate accommodations (e.g. educational services in English) effectively denied the Chinese students equal educational opportunities on the basis of their ethnicity, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974 ruled in favor of the students, thus expanding rights of students nationwide with limited English proficiency. The Supreme Court stated that these students should be treated with equality among the schools. Among other things, Lau reflects the now-widely accepted view that a person’s language is so closely intertwined with their national origin (the country someone or their ancestors came from) that language-based discrimination is effectively a proxy for national origin discrimination.