Students will be able to:

  • Explain how the Mendez v. Westminster differed from the school segregation in the east coast. 


RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

RI.5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

RI.5.6Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent. 

RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

DCPS Social Studies Standards

5.1.6Describe the continued migration of Mexican settlers into Mexican territories of the West and Southwest. (G)
5.1.8Relate how and when California, Texas, Oregon, and other Western lands became part of the United States, including the significance of the Texas War for Independence and the Mexican-American War. (G, M)
5.6.4Describe the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments and African American political and economic progress. (P, E)
5.13.4Describe the Mexican Bracero program and the unprecedented migration of Puerto Ricans to take part in the invigorated industrial economy. (E.S)
5.14.3Identify key leaders in the struggle to extend equal rights to all Americans through the decades (e.g., Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Jo Baker, César Chávez, Frederick Douglass, Rodolfo ?Corky? Gonzales, Charles Houston, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Carlos Montes, Baker Motley, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Eleanor Roosevelt, Reies López Tijerina). (P)
5.14.4List and describe the steps toward desegregation (e.g., A. Philip Randolph?s proposed 1941 March on Washington, Jackie Robinson and baseball, Truman and the Armed Forces, Adam Clayton Powell and Congress, and the integration of public schools). (P, S)
5.16.5Distinguish between waves of immigrant Latino groups and identify the push and pull factors that stimulated their transnational movement (e.g., Cubans in the 1960s and 1980s; Central Americans in the 1980s; Caribbean peoples, especially Haitians and Dominicans, in the 1990s). (G, S)


"A Tale of Two Schools" http://www.tolerance.org/activity/tale-two-schools

Mendez v. Westminster

"Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California's Schools." Teachers' Domain. 22 Dec. 2004. Web. 16 Jul. 2013. .

Background Essay: Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California's Schools

Ever since the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, Mexican Americans who lived in the territory gained by the United States struggled for equality. As early as 1855, laws in California made state funding for education available only to white students. Educational codes specifically denied African American, Asian American, and Native American students the right to equal education. Although these laws didn't address Mexican Americans per se, by custom they were made to attend segregated classes in predominately white schools, or, more commonly, separate schools altogether.

In the early 1900s, California's booming citrus industry attracted many Mexican immigrants. By 1920 the Mexican American population in Southern and Central California had tripled. Communities responded by discriminating against Mexican Americans in employment and in access to educational opportunities. Conditions in Mexican American schools were vastly inferior to those in white schools. For example, Mexican American teachers and principals were uniformly paid less than their white counterparts for doing the same job, less money went toward building Mexican American schools than toward building white schools, and classes in Mexican American schools were overcrowded and the curriculum disproportionately focused on vocational skills.

During World War II, the horrors of discrimination abroad fueled a growing resistance to discrimination and segregation at home, particularly among minorities who contributed to the war effort. For Mexican Americans, the resistance peaked in the mid-1940s, when a tenant farmer named Gonzalo Mendez moved his family to the predominantly white Westminster district in Orange County and his children were denied admission to the public schools there. The Mendezes' move was prompted by the opportunity to lease a 60-acre farm in Westminster from the Munemitsus, a Japanese family who had been "relocated" to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. The income the Mendezes earned from the farm enabled them to hire an attorney and pursue litigation.

In 1945, Mendez and four other parents filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 5,000 Mexican American families to integrate the schools in four Orange County school districts. However, unlike Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which focused on racial discrimination, the plaintiffs in Mendez v. Westminster argued that the students were segregated into separate schools based solely on their national origin. The defendants argued that the schools were segregated due to the handicap of language barriers and that non-English-speaking pupils should attend separate schools until they had acquired some proficiency in the English language.

In 1946, the judge ruled that the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment pertained to equal access to education, and that under that provision, segregation based solely on national origin was unconstitutional. California governor Earl Warren lobbied the California state legislature to enact legislation repealing the state's educational codes that allowed for segregation in public schools.

The Mendez case represented the first successful challenge to the decades-old "separate but equal" doctrine in public school education and established an important legal precedent. In 1948, a federal court in Texas ruled that segregated schools for Mexican Americans were unconstitutional; in 1950, a federal court in Arizona followed suit. Meanwhile, Governor Warren would go on to become the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and write the opinion in Brown v. Board of Education.


Warm Up

Students will have five minutes to look at these two pictures and determine:

  • How are the two pictures different?
  • How are they the same?
  • Who is in the picture?
  • What do we know about where the picture was taken? 

17th St. School

Hoover School

New Material

As a class we will examine the short video interview of Sylvia Mendez and read part of the article "A Tale of Two Schools."  While we watch and read, we will create a timeline of events leading up to and following the Mendez case.


In groups of four, students will discuss how the Mendez case differed the court cases back east.  Students will focus on:

  • How were they different?
  • How were they similar?
  • How did the communities react? 
  • How did the courts react? 


Brief constructed response:

How was the Mendez v. Westminster case different from the Little Rock Nine situation? How was it the same?  Use evidence to support your answer. 

Closure and Reflection

Using the map and the timeline completed previously add the Mendez v. Westminster case accordingly to each.