Castañeda v. Pickard (1981)
Facts of the Case:
The case of Castañeda v. Pickard was held in the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in 1978, on appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. This case was filed against the Raymondville Independent School District (RISD) in Texas by Roy Castañeda, the father of two Mexican-American children. The defendents were the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the Texas Education Agency. According to the plaintiffs, the district engaged in policies and practices of racial discrimination against Mexican-Americans which deprived them of rights secured by the fourteenth amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974. Classrooms were segregated using a grouping system based on racially and ethnically discriminatory criteria. Consequently, it could result in inadequate separation.
Raymondville is a small, poor district with a majority of Mexican-American students. In grades K-3, instruction through bilingual education (in response to Lau) was designed to teach reading and writing in English as well as the content areas through use of Spanish. Bilingual support is not available in upper elementary grades and beyond, except through the use of a classroom aide. There was no way to evaluate the adequacy of the school's approach.
1. Is the ability grouping system used for classroom assignments was based on racially and ethnically discriminatory criteria and resulted in segregation (14th Amendment)?
2. Are hiring and promotional practices discriminatory, denying children of equal educational opportunity (EEOA)?
3. Is the bilingual education program adequate (Title VI) to overcome barriers to equalize participation in educational opportunities (EEOA)?
1. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, based on the system having a history of unlawful segregation. The ability grouping was based on racially and ethnically discriminatory criteria and resulted in segregation (14th Amendment).
• School systems can use ability grouping, even when such a policy has a segregative effect, so long as such a practice is genuinely motivated by educational concerns and not discriminatory motives. However ability grouping may perpetuate the effects of past discrimination by resegregating, on the basis of ability, students who were previously segregated in inferior schools on the basis of race or national origin.
• Language grouping is allowed, even in a district with a past history of discrimination. However, a practice which actually groups children on the basis of their language ability and then identifies these groups with a general ability label, is highly suspect and has the effect of perpetuating the stigma of inferiority originally imposed by past practices of discrimination. The RISD's ability grouping practices confuse measures of two different characteristics, i. e., language and intelligence, with the result that predominantly Spanish speaking children are inaccurately labeled as "low ability," which may be evidence of a discriminatory intent to stigmatize these children as inferior on the basis of their ethnic background.
2. The court ruled that they were discriminated against based on hiring practices (but not promotional practices).
• The Equal Protection Clause requires not only that students shall not themselves be discriminated against on the basis of race by assignment to a particular school or classroom, but that they shall not be deprived of an equal educational opportunity by being forced to receive instruction from a faculty and administration composed of persons selected on the basis of unlawful racial or ethnic criteria. In a case involving a school district with a history of discrimination, the defendant has not provided clear and convincing evidence that the challenged employment decisions were motivated by legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons.
3. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's conclusion that RISD's bilingual education program does not violate Title VI. However the effectiveness of that program is in question. The Court identified a three-prong test to determine whether a school district is serving its LEP students.
The Court remanded these issues for further proceedings.
• The district court is to determine whether, in the past, the district discriminated against Mexican-Americans, and then to consider whether the effects of any such past discrimination have been fully erased. The answers to these questions should illuminate the proper framework for assessment of the merits of the plaintiffs' claims that the ability grouping and employment practices of RISD are tainted by unlawful discrimination.
• The question of the legality of the district's language remediation is distinct from the ability grouping and teacher discrimination issues. Because an effective language remediation program is essential to the education of many students in Raymondville, the district court should conduct a hearing to identify the precise causes of the language deficiencies affecting some of the RISD teachers and to establish a time table for the parties to follow in devising and implementing a program to alleviate these deficiencies. The district court should also assure that RISD takes whatever steps are necessary to acquire validated Spanish language achievement tests for administration to students in the bilingual program at an appropriate time during the 1981-82 academic year.
Impact of the Court Decision
The Castañeda vs. Pickard case established three criteria for a program that serves LEP students. These measures determine whether a school district is serving the LEP students and if the program addresses the needs of these students. The principles are as follows:
1. Theory: it must be based on "a sound educational theory" or, at a minimum, a legitimate experimental program design.
2. Practice: it must be "implemented effectively," with adequate resources and personnel to transfer theory to practice.
3. Results: after a trial period, it must be evaluated as effective in overcoming language handicaps. The school must stop programs that fail to produce results.
Castaneda has a special relevance, since it provided -- and still provides -- important criteria for determining a school's degree of compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974. The current OCR policy permits school districts to use any method, or program, that has proven successful or that promises to be successful. OCR's approach for evaluating the adequacy of a district's program for language-minority students under Title VI closely parallels the three-part test formulated in Castaneda v. Pickard to judge an education agency's compliance with the EEOA.