LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A 1946 case that helped to dissolve the path of segregation in California schools was commemorated Monday by the Los Angeles Superior Court, as well as by one of the plaintiffs in the historic case.
Sylvia Mendez ascended the steps of the federal courthouse and entered the very courtroom where the case of Mendez v. Westminster ultimately dismantled school segregation in the Orange County School District.READ MORE: Man To Be Extradited To Long Beach To Face Murder Charges In Killings Of 2 Over Parking
In the courtroom, over 100 high school students from East Los Angeles learned about the trial and its influence on history.
When Mendez was 8, she was denied access to a public school and was redirected to a Mexican school instead. In 1946, her parents filed a lawsuit, challenging racial segregation in Orange County.
The trial lasted three years, resulting in a victory for Mendez, her parents and Latinos seeking fair education opportunities in Southern California.
Even then, however, the integration was no easy task.READ MORE: COVID-19 Hospitalizations Drop While Cases Remain On The Rise In LA County
“It wasn’t until we integrated and I went into a white school, and this little boy came up and told me ‘You know, we don’t want Mexicans in here, what are you doing here?’ and I remember I started crying, and told my mother, ‘I don’t want to be in that white school; they don’t want Latinos,” Mendez said. “And my mother says ‘Sylvia, don’t you remember when you were in court every day, and what we were fighting for.’ ”
While Mendez says she is proud of how far school integration has come since the 1940s, she believes more remains to be done.
“This case isn’t something we really discuss in our schools, and it’s not something that we have textbooks (for),” Mendez said.
In addition to Mendez’ lessons, the students were shown a documentary by filmmaker Sandra Robby, which detailed Mendez v. Westminster.MORE NEWS: Woman Says She Was Refused Service At An Encino Dunkin' Donuts For Being Deaf
Mendez, meanwhile, continues to travel the country to speak with high school and college students about her experience and how equal education opportunities can change the future.