Mendez v.Westminster

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by MRitter1
Last updated 5 years ago

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Mendez v.Westminster

Where and When: On March 2, 1945, the Menezs' and four other familes filed a class action lawsuit agains four Orange County School Boards to end segreation in the schools on behalf of more then 5,000 school children who were attending segregated school.

Mendez v. Westminster, 1946

What Happened: In 1944, Soledad Vidaurri went to the 17th St. School to enroll her children and her brother Gonzalo's children in school. His children were denied admission because they had dark skin. She was told they had to go to the "Mexican school" further away. Because of this Soledad refused to admit her children into the school. Mr. Mendez and the school administrator could not come to an agreement. So he and four other Mexican-American fathers filed a class action lawsuit against the Westminster School District of Orange County. They claimed their children, along with 5,000 other children of "Mexican" ancestory were victims of unconstitutional discrimination. The school board offered to enroll the Mendez's children, but no other student of Mexican-American descent, they declined. On February 18, 1946, Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez and his co-plaintiffs, finding segregated schools to be an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. The school district appealed to the Ninth Federal District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which upheld Judge McCormick's decision that segregation practices violated the 14th Amendment. On April 14, 1947, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the district courts ruling because the school districts implemented segregation without authorization by state law. In September 1947, the Mendez children enrolled in the 17th Street School along with other Mexican-American children in the other school districts. This precedence will be used seven years later in Brown v. Board of Education.

Quote: "Mexicans have to go to schools for Mexicans"

Why and How: This was an important ruling at a time when there was prejudice against Mexican-Americans. It was the first step to ending segregation in schools. However, it took seven more years before the rest of the country addressed this issue. It also started addressing the issue of how to accurately assess English language learners proficiency in English.

School for Mexicans

School for Mexicans

Comemorative Stamp

Judge Paul J. McCormick

Who: Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez and their three children, Gonzalo, Geronimo, and Sylvia. Sylvia was 8 years old at the time. Gonzalo, a Mexican farmer who leased his land from a Japanes neighbor, was in an internment camp. Felicitas was from Puerto Rico. Four other Mexican-American familes were also involved

Sylvia Mendez

Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez


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