Black English and Equal Educational Opportunity

There is a danger that the King case will be misunderstood. The press has sometimes portrayed it as a vindication of the right to use black English in the classroom rather than of the educational opportunities of the children who speak it, and the King opinion itself is at times confusing. This Note clarifies the meaning of King and section 1703(f) by examining four critical steps in Judge Joiner’s reasoning. Section I examines the court’s holding that “language barriers” under section l 703(f) include impediments to equal educational opportunity arising from dialect differences, and concludes that although the court’s argument is incomplete, the legislative history of section 1703(f) and overall purpose of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act support the King result. Section II explores the limitations of the court’s factual finding that a section l 703(f) language barrier existed at King School. Section III analyzes the court’s determination that the Ann Arbor School District Board failed to take appropriate action to overcome the language barrier at King School, and assesses the court’s interpretation of section 1703(f)’s “appropriate action” requirement. Finally, Section IV musters support for the court’s holding that section 1703(f) does not require plaintiffs to show that a school district’s failure to take appropriate- action had a racially discriminatory purpose. The Note concludes that section 1703([) properly applies to claims such as the one in the King case, and that the court’s opinion furthers the purpose of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act while imposing only a modest duty on school districts.