California Educator

October 2015

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In March 1945, five Mexican-American families filed a class-action suit in federal court against the segregation policies of four Orange County school districts. The landmark Mendez v. Westminster School District case led to California becoming the first state to desegregate public schools, and many scholars now believe it set the stage for Brown v. Board of Education, the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 that declared school segregation to be unconstitutional. Inspired by their study of the Mendez v. Westminster case, 57 history students from Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School in Boyle Heights released their anthology We Are Alive When We Speak for Justice in June. Published 70 years after the class-action suit was filed, the collection of personal narratives, essays, interviews and historical fiction reflects "the themes and spirit of the case," says teacher Benjamin De Leon, United Teach- ers Los Angeles. Narratives include descriptions of the struggle to learn Spanish after growing up in the U.S. and life in the foster care system. Essays take on the need for a minimum wage and events in Ferguson, Missouri. Inter- views are with local community leaders. The reception celebrating the book's publication By Carol Kearns Photos courtesy 826LA High school students turn authors for book inspired by landmark California desegregation case The Mendez Effect Young author Rafael German Jr. proudly holds up the book, inspired by the Mendez case, to which 57 high school students contributed essays, narratives, fiction and interviews. 49 V O LU M E 2 0 I S S U E 3 Learning

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