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A history of the laws affecting ELLs

Legislation and Court Rulings Affecting English Language Learners

1923 Meyer v. Nebraska--Overturned a 1919 Nebraska law that classes in any school, public or private, had to be taught in English; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment

1954 Brown v. Board of Education--Overturned an 1896 Supreme Court case which allowed schools to be "separate but equal" with regard to race

1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VI--Congressional law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin

1968 Bilingual Education Act--Established federal policy recognizing bilingual education as a viable method for low-income students whose first language isn't English and recognized the unique education disadvantages faced by non-English speaking students

1974 Lau v. Nichols--U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school districts must take affirmative steps to overcome educational barriers faced by non-English speakers

1974 Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 --Mandated that no state deny equal education opportunity to any individual and mandated that states "take appropriate action to overcome language barriers"

1974 Amendments to Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--Required states to include instruction in a student's native language and culture and to train bilingual teachers; said any student of "limited English-speaking ability" could participate in federally funded programs

1978 Amendments to Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--Emphasized the transitional nature of native language instruction, expanded eligibility and permitted enrollment of English-speaking students in bilingual education program

1982 Plyler v. Doe--U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that excluded children without proof of legal residency or full tuition from attending public schools; set precedent that children could not be denied an education based on immigration status

1988 Amendments to Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--Increased funding to states, expanded special English-only programs, limited participation to three years for most programs and created fellowships for professional training

1994 Amendments to Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--Supplied additional funds for immigrant education and allowed participation of some private school students

2000 Executive Order 13155 "Improving Access to Services for Persons With Limited English Proficiency" --Presidential order requiring all federal programs to ensure that they are accessible to people with limited English and that they do not discriminate on the basis of national origin

2002 No Child Left Behind Act--Provided grants and held school districts accountable for English language learners' and immigrant students' academic progress and English attainment; supported professional development programs

SOURCE: National Clearinghouse for Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs