|LAU ET AL. v. NICHOLS ET AL.|
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
414 U.S. 563
December 10, 1973, Argued
January 21, 1974, Decided
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.
483 F.2d 791, reversed and remanded.
The failure of the San Francisco school system to provide English
language instruction to approximately 1,800 students of Chinese
ancestry who do not speak English, or to provide them with other
adequate instructional procedures, denies them a meaningful opportunity
to participate in the public educational program and thus violates ï¿½
601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination based
"on the ground of race, color, or national origin," in "any program or
activity receiving Federal financial assistance," and the implementing
regulations of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Pp.
Douglas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Brennan, Marshall, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Stewart, J.,
filed an opinion concurring in the result, in which Burger, C. J., and
Blackmun, J., joined, post, p. 569. White, J., concurred in the result.
Blackmun, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, in which
Burger, C. J., joined, post, p. 571.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The San Francisco, California, school system was integrated in
1971 as a result of a federal court decree, 339 F.Supp. 1315. See Lee
v. Johnson, 404 U.S. 1215. The District Court found that there are
2,856 students of Chinese ancestry in the school system who do not
speak English. Of those who have that language deficiency, about 1,000
are given supplemental courses in the English language. n1 About 1,800, however, do not receive that instruction.
note1 A report adopted by the Human Rights
Commission of San Francisco and submitted to the Court by respondents
after oral argument shows that, as of April 1973, there were 3,457
Chinese students in the school system who spoke little or no English.
The document further showed 2,136 students enrolled in Chinese special
instruction classes, but at least 429 of the enrollees were not Chinese
but were included for ethnic balance. Thus, as of April 1973, no more
than 1,707 of the 3,457 Chinese students needing special English
instruction were receiving it.
This class suit brought by non-English-speaking Chinese students
against officials responsible for the operation of the San Francisco
Unified School District seeks relief against the unequal educational
opportunities, which are alleged to violate, inter alia, the Fourteenth
Amendment. No specific remedy is urged upon us. Teaching English to the
students of Chinese ancestry who do not speak the language is one
choice. Giving instructions to this group in Chinese is another. There
may be others. Petitioners ask only that the Board of Education be
directed to apply its expertise to the problem and rectify the
situation. The District Court denied relief. The Court of Appeals
affirmed, holding that there was no violation of the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or of ï¿½ 601 of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, 78 Stat. 252, 42 U. S. C. ï¿½ 2000d, which excludes from
participation in federal financial assistance, recipients of aid which
discriminate against racial groups, 483 F.2d 791. One judge dissented.
A hearing en banc was denied, two judges dissenting. Id., at 805. We
granted the petition for certiorari because of the public importance of
the question presented, 412 U.S. 938.
The Court of Appeals reasoned that "every student brings to the
starting line of his educational career different advantages and
disadvantages caused in part by social, economic and cultural
background, created and continued completely apart from any
contribution by the school system," 483 F.2d, at 797. Yet in our view
the case may not be so easily decided. This is a public school system
of California and ï¿½ 71 of the California Education Code states that
"English shall be the basic language of instruction in all schools."
That section permits a school district to determine "when and under
what circumstances instruction may be given bilingually." That section
also states as "the policy of the state" to insure "the mastery of
English by all pupils in the schools." And bilingual instruction is
authorized "to the extent that it does not interfere with the
systematic, sequential, and regular instruction of all pupils in the
Moreover, ï¿½ 8573 of the Education Code provides that no pupil
shall receive a diploma of graduation from grade 12 who has not met the
standards of proficiency in "English," as well as other prescribed
subjects. Moreover, by ï¿½ 12101 of the Education Code (Supp. 1973)
children between the ages of six and 16 years are (with exceptions not
material here) "subject to compulsory full-time education."
Under these state-imposed standards there is no equality of treatment
merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks,
teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English
are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.
Basic English skills are at the very core of what these public
schools teach. Imposition of a requirement that, before a child can
effectively participate in the educational program, he must already
have acquired those basic skills is to make a mockery of public
education. We know that those who do not understand English are certain
to find their classroom experiences wholly incomprehensible and in no
way meaningful. We do not reach the Equal Protection Clause argument
which has been advanced but rely solely on ï¿½ 601 of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. ï¿½ 2000d, to reverse the Court of Appeals.
That section bans discrimination based "on the ground of race,
color, or national origin," in "any program or activity receiving
Federal financial assistance." The school district involved in this
litigation receives large amounts of federal financial assistance. The
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), which has authority
to promulgate regulations prohibiting discrimination in federally
assisted school systems, 42 U. S. C. ï¿½ 2000d-1, in 1968 issued one
guideline that "school systems are responsible for assuring that
students of a particular race, color, or national origin are not denied
the opportunity to obtain the education generally obtained by other
students in the system." 33 Fed. Reg. 4956. In 1970 HEW made the
guidelines more specific, requiring school districts that were
federally funded "to rectify the language deficiency in order to open"
the instruction to students who had "linguistic deficiencies," 35 Fed.
By ï¿½ 602 of the Act HEW is authorized to issue rules, regulations, and orders n2
to make sure that recipients of federal aid under its jurisdiction
conduct any federally financed projects consistently with ï¿½ 601. HEW's
regulations, 45 CFR ï¿½ 80.3 (b)(1), specify that the recipients may not
"(ii) Provide any service, financial aid, or other benefit to
an individual which is different, or is provided in a different manner,
from that provided to others under the program;
. . . .
"(iv) Restrict an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any
advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving any service,
financial aid, or other benefit under the program."
note2 Section 602 provides:
department and agency which is empowered to extend Federal financial
assistance to any program or activity, by way of grant, loan, or
contract other than a contract of insurance or guaranty, is authorized
and directed to effectuate the provisions of section 2000d of this
title with respect to such program or activity by issuing rules,
regulations, or orders of general applicability which shall be
consistent with achievement of the objectives of the statute
authorizing the financial assistance in connection with which the
action is taken. . . ." 42 U. S. C. ï¿½ 2000d-1.
Discrimination among students on account of race or national origin
that is prohibited includes "discrimination . . . in the availability
or use of any academic . . . or other facilities of the grantee or
other recipient." Id., ï¿½ 80.5 (b).
Discrimination is barred which has that effect even though no
purposeful design is present: a recipient "may not . . . utilize
criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of
subjecting individuals to discrimination" or have "the effect of
defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives
of the program as respect individuals of a particular race, color, or
national origin." Id., ï¿½ 80.3 (b)(2).
It seems obvious that the Chinese-speaking minority receive
fewer benefits than the English-speaking majority from respondents'
school system which denies them a meaningful opportunity to participate
in the educational program -- all earmarks of the discrimination banned
by the regulations. n3 In 1970 HEW issued clarifying guidelines, 35 Fed. Reg. 11595, which include the following:
note3 And see Report of the Human Rights
Commission of San Francisco, Bilingual Education in the San Francisco
Public Schools, Aug. 9, 1973.
"Where inability to speak and understand the English language excludes
national origin-minority group children from effective participation in
the educational program offered by a school district, the district must
take affirmative steps to rectify the language deficiency in order to
open its instructional program to these students."
"Any ability grouping or tracking system employed by the school
system to deal with the special language skill needs of national
origin-minority group children must be designed to meet such language
skill needs as soon as possible and must not operate as an educational
deadend or permanent track." Respondent school district contractually
agreed to "comply with title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . .
and all requirements imposed by or pursuant to the Regulation" of HEW
(45 CFR pt. 80) which are "issued pursuant to that title . . ." and
also immediately to "take any measures necessary to effectuate this
agreement." The Federal Government has power to fix the terms on which
its money allotments to the States shall be disbursed. Oklahoma v. CSC,
330 U.S. 127, 142-143. Whatever may be the limits of that power,
Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 590 et seq., they have not
been reached here. Senator Humphrey, during the floor debates on the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, said: n4
note4 110 Cong. Rec. 6543 (Sen. Humphrey, quoting from President Kennedy's message to Congress, June 19, 1963).
"Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of
all races contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages,
entrenches, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination." We
accordingly reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the
case for the fashioning of appropriate relief.
Reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE concurs in the result.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN join, concurring in the result.
It is uncontested that more than 2,800 schoolchildren of Chinese
ancestry attend school in the San Francisco Unified School District
system even though they do not speak, understand, read, or write the
English language, and that as to some 1,800 of these pupils the
respondent school authorities have taken no significant steps to deal
with this language deficiency. The petitioners do not contend, however,
that the respondents have affirmatively or intentionally contributed to
this inadequacy, but only that they have failed to act in the face of
changing social and linguistic patterns. Because of this laissez-faire
attitude on the part of the school administrators, it is not entirely
clear that ï¿½ 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. ï¿½ 2000d,
standing alone, would render illegal the expenditure of federal funds
on these schools. For that section provides that "no person in the
United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin,
be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be
subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving
Federal financial assistance."
On the other hand, the interpretive guidelines published by the
Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health, Education, and
Welfare in 1970, 35 Fed. Reg. 11595, clearly indicate that affirmative
efforts to give special training for non-English-speaking pupils are
required by Tit. VI as a condition to receipt of federal aid to public
"Where inability to speak and understand the English language
excludes national origin-minority group children from effective
participation in the educational program offered by a school district,
the district must take affirmative steps to rectify the language
deficiency in order to open its instructional program to these
note1 These guidelines were issued in further
clarification of the Department's position as stated in its regulations
issued to implement Tit. VI, 45 CFR pt. 80. The regulations provide in
part that no recipient of federal financial assistance administered by
"Provide any service, financial aid, or other benefit to an individual
which is different, or is provided in a different manner, from that
provided to others under the program; [or]
"Restrict an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or
privilege enjoyed by others receiving any service, financial aid, or
other benefit under the program." 45 CFR ï¿½ 80.3 (b)(1)(ii), (iv).
The critical question is, therefore, whether the regulations and
guidelines promulgated by HEW go beyond the authority of ï¿½ 601. n2
Last Term, in Mourning v. Family Publications Service, Inc., 411 U.S.
356, 369, we held that the validity of a regulation promulgated under a
general authorization provision such as ï¿½ 602 of Tit. VI n3
"will be sustained so long as it is 'reasonably related to the purposes
of the enabling legislation.' Thorpe v. Housing Authority of the City
of Durham, 393 U.S. 268, 280-281 (1969)." I think the guidelines here
fairly meet that test. Moreover, in assessing the purposes of remedial
legislation we have found that departmental regulations and "consistent
administrative construction" are "entitled to great weight."
Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 409 U.S. 205, 210;
Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 433-434; Udall v. Tallman, 380
U.S. 1. The Department has reasonably and consistently interpreted ï¿½
601 to require affirmative remedial efforts to give special attention
to linguistically deprived children.
note2 The respondents do not contest the standing
of the petitioners to sue as beneficiaries of the federal funding
contract between the Department of Health, Education,and Welfare and
the San Francisco Unified School District.
note3 Section 602, 42 U. S. C. ï¿½ 2000d-1, provides in pertinent part:
"Each Federal department and agency which is empowered to extend
Federal financial assistance to any program or activity, by way of
grant, loan, or contract other than a contract of insurance or
guaranty, is authorized and directed to effectuate the provisions of
section 2000d of this title with respect to such program or activity by
issuing rules, regulations, or orders of general applicability which
shall be consistent with achievement of the objectives of the statute
authorizing the financial assistance in connection with which the
action is taken. . . ."
The United States as amicus curiae asserts in its brief, and the
respondents appear to concede, that the guidelines were issued pursuant
to ï¿½ 602.
For these reasons I concur in the result reached by the Court.
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, concurring in the result.
I join MR. JUSTICE STEWART'S opinion and thus I, too, concur in the
result. Against the possibility that the Court's judgment may be
interpreted too broadly, I stress the fact that the children with whom
we are concerned here number about 1,800. This is a very substantial
group that is being deprived of any meaningful schooling because the
children cannot understand the language of the classroom. We may only
guess as to why they have had no exposure to English in their preschool
years. Earlier generations of American ethnic groups have overcome the
language barrier by earnest parental endeavor or by the hard fact of
being pushed out of the family or community nest and into the realities
of broader experience.
I merely wish to make plain that when, in another case, we are
concerned with a very few youngsters, or with just a single child who
speaks only German or Polish or Spanish or any language other than
English, I would not regard today's decision, or the separate
concurrence, as conclusive upon the issue whether the statute and the
guidelines require the funded school district to provide special
instruction. For me, numbers are at the heart of this case and my
concurrence is to be understood accordingly.