Significant Court Decisions

Meyer v. Nebraska was the first U.S. Supreme Court case that addressed American education of foreign-languages. This case did away with a Nebraska law that prevented public and private schools from offering instruction in any language but English. '"The protection of the U.S. Constitution extends to all, to those who speak other languages as well as to those born with English on the tongue," Supreme Court Justice James C. McReynolds wrote. The decision established the principle that parents have a constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children, including their education.'.

Lau v. Nichols was a case brought forward, in which Chinese-American students attending a public school in San Francisco alleged that the failure to provide bilingual instruction to all non-English speaking students violated their rights to education due to limited English comprehension. The case did not create a specific remedy, yet in conjunction with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ruled in favor of the students, thus expanding the rights of students with limited English proficiency.

Serna v. Portales was a case that dictated when a "substantial group" of students with limited English proficiency was present, bilingual education was required.

Aspira v. N.Y. Board of Education required testing for students in English and their native language in order to understand if they should receive additional services and bilingual education.

Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, Colorado stated that students should receive instruction in their native language and English until proficiency in English is achieved.

Flores v. Arizona stated that Arizona must do more to fund instruction for ELL students. The Arizona courts rejected tenets of the NCLB law that changed the services provided to ELL students. This case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Castaneda v. Pickard in 1981 created a basis for pedagogically addressing Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students. It required that districts have a plan for addressing LEP students, that schools provide qualified staff to implement that plan, and that the district has developed an effective evaluation protocol for the program. Though this case did create a more structured plan pedagogically it did not require bilingual education programs to meet these same standards. "It required only that 'appropriate action to overcome language barriers' be taken through well implemented programs."