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Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County
United States District Court for the Southern District of California
64 F. Supp. 544 (1946)
Various school districts in Orange County, California, had a practice of segregating elementary school children who spoke English from the children who spoke Spanish. In the Westminster School District of Orange County (Westminster) (defendant), the board of trustees established that elementary school children would not be segregated based on race. However, children who did not speak English could not attend school with English-speaking students. Almost all the non-English-speaking students were of Mexican ancestry. The Mexican students were required to attend separate schools until they were proficient in English. The separate schools for the Spanish-speaking children were equal to the regular schools in facilities, teachers, and curricula. Officials assigned Mexican children to the segregated schools sometimes on the basis of hasty or unreliable language tests. Sometimes, the assignment was simply based on the child’s Mexican name. Westminster and the other school districts admitted that Mexican children such as the child of Gonzalo Mendez (plaintiff) were subjected to segregation through the sixth or eighth grade, and that the children were competent to go to school in the districts where they lived. Mendez and several others brought a class-action suit seeking to have their children attend the local public school. Mendez alleged that the school policy of segregation based on language was a veiled effort by school officials to discriminate against Mexican children, and that such discrimination was present in Westminster and the other school districts with these policies.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (McCormick, J.)
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