Weekly roundup: Proposed bill aims to integrate landmark Mendez v. Westminster case into education curriculum, and more

Sylvia Mendez and city officials
Sylvia Mendez poses for photos with city officials in front of statues of her parents, Felicitas and Gonzolo Mendez, at Mendez Tribute Monument Park in December 2022.

The story behind Mendez v. Westminster, a landmark case in the struggle for school desegregation and civil rights, could potentially become an integral lesson for all California students if a newly unveiled bill receives enough legislative support.

Presented by Assemblyman Tri Ta and Senator Thomas Umberg and in collaboration with civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, the bill would require the state Board of Education and superintendent of public instruction to place the case alongside Brown v. Board of Education in the state’s academic curriculum.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

“People know Brown v. Board of Education, but Mexican Americans were facing similar struggles,” Assemblyman Ta, who served as the mayor for the city of Westminster between 2012 through 2022, said in a press release. “This lawsuit moved the desegregation movement forward and helped protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their ethnic background.”

Mendez v. Westminster represents a crucial milestone in the country’s efforts to end forced segregation in public schools. The case was brought against the Westminster School District by Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez after the couple tried unsuccessfully to enroll their three children at Westminster’s 17th Street School in 1943. The ruling is considered a precursor to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.

“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, ” Senator Umberg said. “It’s time for our state’s curriculum to acknowledge this trailblazing court case.

In December 2022, the Mendez family’s groundbreaking influence on public education was cemented in the history of Westminster with the unveiling of the educational and immersive Mendez Tribute Monument Park.

Here are the other stories we’ve been following this week:

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposed budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year on Wednesday, outlining a number of measures to address a projected state budget shortfall of $37.8 billion.
Ryan Honary and Ramon Miramontes
  • The annual Orange County Counselor Symposium will return on Feb. 7 to honor the unique contributions made by local school counselors and counseling advocates.
  • California ushered in the start of the year with a set of fresh laws, among them a mandate for students in grades one through six to learn how to write in cursive.
  • Anaheim High’s football coach, who led the school to 11 playoff appearances and three Orange League championships, has resigned after 20 seasons to allow him more time to spend with family.
  • A nonprofit based in Huntington Beach unveiled a transitional living house for abandoned or severely neglected high school students on Wednesday. The home will provide teens a safe place to stay and grow as they complete high school.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.