Edward Steinman, LLB ’68, was just 25 years old when he filed a lawsuit that would transform bilingual education in the United States. In Lau v. Nichols, he represented Chinese-speaking students in San Francisco, about 1,800 of whom were receiving neither supplemental instruction in the English language nor adequate alternative instruction in Chinese. Steinman lost at the district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, although 9th Circuit Judge Shirley Hufstedler, LLB ’49, noted the students’ lack of equal opportunity in arguing that the entire circuit should rehear the case. In January 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Chinese students, finding that the San Francisco Unified School District had violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and that “there is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum.”
Before Lau, “you had this notion of inequality as taking people who are the same and treating them differently—that’s the Brown v. Board of Education case,” says Steinman, a professor emeritus at Santa Clara University School of Law. “But there’s another kind of inequality that’s more subtle, which is taking people who are different and treating them the same.”
Rebecca Beyer is a Boston-area journalist. Email her at email@example.com.
Vintage 1973 Collection
Stanford is 50! It turns out we’re not the only one. Walk with us down memory lane as we sample some of the wonders and horrors of the 1973–74 academic year on the Farm, and in the world around.