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SCR-117 Mendez v. Westminster School District Day.(2017-2018)

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Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 117

Relative to Mendez v. Westminster School District Day.

[ Filed with Secretary of State  May 23, 2018. ]


SCR 117, Newman. Mendez v. Westminster School District Day.
This measure would designate April 14, 2018, as Mendez v. Westminster School District Day.
Fiscal Committee: NO  

WHEREAS, While Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) 347 U.S. 483 is a widely known landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court, few can trace its origins to the case of nine–year–old Sylvia Mendez in Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County (S.D. Cal. 1946) 64 F.Supp 544, affirmed (9th Cir. 1947) 161 F.2d 774; and
WHEREAS, Sylvia’s case, which was decided in the federal courts located in California, preceded Brown v. Board of Education by about eight years. Thurgood Marshall, who later represented Linda Brown, wrote an amicus brief in favor of Sylvia’s case. Marshall used some of the same arguments in Mendez v. Westminster School District to win Brown v. Board of Education; and
WHEREAS, Sylvia Mendez, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a 2011 White House ceremony, was a child when she was turned away from a California public school for white students only. That rejection fueled her father’s determined journey through school, civic, and legal channels. Gonzalo Mendez, represented by a civil rights attorney, took four Los Angeles-area school districts to court and won a class action lawsuit at the trial and appellate levels of the federal court system; and
WHEREAS, Ms. Mendez carries on the legacy of Mendez v. Westminster School District when she explains that her parents taught her “that we are all individuals; that we are all human beings; that we are all connected together; and that we all have the same rights, the same freedom”; and
WHEREAS, During a two-week trial, the Mendez family’s attorney, David Marcus, took the then-unusual approach of presenting social science evidence to support his argument that segregation resulted in feelings of inferiority among Mexican-American children that could undermine their ability to be productive Americans. United States District Court Judge Paul J. McCormick agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered that the school districts cease their “discriminatory practices against the pupils of Mexican descent in the public schools” within those districts; and
WHEREAS, In his decision, Judge McCormick wrote that “‘[t]he equal protection of the laws’ pertaining to the public school system in California is not provided by furnishing in separate schools the same technical facilities, textbooks and courses of instruction to children of Mexican ancestry that are available to the other public school children regardless of their ancestry. A paramount requisite in the American system of public education is social equality. It must be open to all children by unified school association regardless of lineage”; and
WHEREAS, The school districts appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Court of Appeals affirmed Judge McCormick’s ruling. Two months later, California Governor Earl Warren signed a bill ending school segregation in California, making it the first state to officially desegregate its public schools; and
WHEREAS, While the case was pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, several organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed amicus curiae briefs. Thurgood Marshall wrote for the NAACP and, five years later, used similar reasoning before the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. The United States Supreme Court adopted many of Marshall’s arguments and, in 1954, issued an opinion ending school segregation throughout the United States. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion; and
WHEREAS, Sylvia Mendez went on to earn degrees in nursing and became the Assistant Nursing Director of the Pediatric Pavilion at the Los Angeles county and University of Southern California Medical Center. Since her retirement, she has dedicated her time to educating students about Mendez v. Westminster School District and encouraging young people to stay in school. In 2007, the United States Post Office issued a stamp commemorating Mendez v. Westminster School District. In 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District dedicated a new high school in the eastern area of Los Angeles, the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the Legislature hereby designates April 14, 2018, as Mendez v. Westminster School District Day in California; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.