Assemblyman Ta and Senator Umberg Announce Legislation to Incorporate Landmark Mexican-American Civil Rights Case into School Curriculum
The historic Mendez v. Westminster civil rights case set the precedent for nationwide school desegregation
ORANGE COUNTY—Today, Assemblyman Tri Ta, in partnership with Senator Thomas J. Umberg and civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, announced legislation to incorporate Mendez v. Westminster, a landmark case in the fight for Mexican-American civil rights, into the state’s education curriculum.
“Westminster played an important the civil rights moment and California students should learn about the courageous story of the Mendez family,” said Assemblyman Ta. “People know Brown v. Board of Education, but Mexican Americans were facing similar struggles. This lawsuit moved the desegregation movement forward and helped protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their ethnic background.”
Senator Thomas J. Umberg, a principal co-author on the legislation, added “I’m honored to work Assemblyman Ta on this effort. I worked in the State Senate to secure funding for the Mendez Freedom Trail of Westminster, so I know the power of the Mendez v. Westminster story and its importance for Orange County history. It’s time for our state’s curriculum to acknowledge this trailblazing court case.”
In 1943, the children of Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez were denied entry into the Seventeenth Street School in Westminster, CA because they were Mexican American. The Mendez family challenged this discriminatory policy in court, and their successful lawsuit led to California becoming the first state to end school segregation and set precedent for Brown v. Board of Education.
The descendants of Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, including civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, also added, “The Mendez family is very excited that Assemblyman Tri Ta will introduce legislation to revise the Education Code to incorporate the Mendez case into the standards. This will ensure that all students will learn an important part of California history and is a milestone that our family has pursued for several years. We are also thankful to Senator Tom Umberg for his support of the bill.”
If passed, the bill would require the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction to place Mendez v. Westminster alongside Brown v. Board of Education in the state’s academic standards.