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Access to Education

Asian Pacific Americans are not a homogeneous group. As a whole, Asian Pacific Americans have the highest high school graduation rate in the country. However, historically, Asian Pacific Americans have faced obstacles to education, including segregation and language barriers. Learning about the diversity of Asian Pacific Americans and their history in this country provides insight to their unique educational needs.

Tape v. Hurley (1885) and School Segregation in San Francisco

From the mid 1800s, discrimination against Asian Immigrants in the west led to numerous segregation and disenfranchisement laws. In 1884, the Spring Valley School denied admission to Mamie Tape, an eight-year-old student, because of her Chinese descent. Her parents sued the San Francisco Board of Education. In 1885, The California Supreme Court ruled that all children born in the United States have the right to attend public schools. In response, the San Francisco Board of Education established the Oriental Public School which segregated Asian students from the rest of the public school students.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and School Desegregation

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that segregation based on race was unconstitutional. This ruling overturned all justification for "separate but equal" schooling through out the country. Chief Justice Earl Warren's famous quote "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal..." influenced the education of children of all races.

Black History Month: Brown v. Board of Education
This AFT site is dedicated to Black History Month and includes information and recommended reading on the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that found segregation in America's public schools unconstitutional.

Lau v. Nichols (1974) and Bilingual Education

In 1974, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lau v. Nichols that basic English skills are at the core of what 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."

Lau v. Nichols
Read the Supreme Court decision of Lau v. Nichols, which is considered one of the most important cases for language-minority students.

Colorín Colorado
To learn more about bilingual education and English Language Learners, visit Colorín Colorado, a Web site produced by the AFT and the Washington, D.C.-based PBS station WETA. The site includes strategies and instructional practices, a toolkit on parent outreach, recommended reading and professional development.