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English language learners retain support after Lau consent decree sunsets

The San Francisco Unified School District announced Monday that a 43-year-old consent decree requiring support for English language learners has expired, but said the district will continue the program without court supervision.

In a statement, SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews said:

“We are now a system that is deeply invested in maintaining a comprehensive system of support for English language learners.”

The San Francisco program and similar programs nationwide came about because of a class action lawsuit filed against the district in 1970 by a Chinese-American student, Kinney Kinmon Lau, who claimed students not fluent in English were denied an equal education.

In a landmark decision in the case in 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled two lower courts and said students must be helped to have basic English skills to ensure they can “meaningfully participate” in schools. Later that year, Congress passed the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, and in 1976, the school district and plaintiffs agreed to the court-supervised consent decree, which expired Sunday

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