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Chicano Students and the Courts

The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality

Richard Valencia

Publication Year: 2008

In 1925 Adolfo ‘Babe’ Romo, a Mexican American rancher in Tempe, Arizona, filed suit against his school district on behalf of his four young children, who were forced to attend a markedly low-quality segregated school, and won. But Romo v. Laird was just the beginning. Some sources rank Mexican Americans as one of the most poorly educated ethnic groups in the United States. Chicano Students and the Courts is a comprehensive look at this community’s long-standing legal struggle for better schools and educational equality. Through the lens of critical race theory, Valencia details why and how Mexican American parents and their children have been forced to resort to legal action.

Chicano Students and the Courts engages the many areas that have spurred Mexican Americans to legal battle, including school segregation, financing, special education, bilingual education, school closures, undocumented students, higher education financing, and high-stakes testing, ultimately situating these legal efforts in the broader scope of the Mexican American community’s overall struggle for the right to an equal education. Extensively researched, and written by an author with firsthand experience in the courtroom as an expert witness in Mexican American education cases, this volume is the first to provide an in-depth understanding of the intersection of litigation and education vis-à-vis Mexican Americans.

Published by: NYU Press

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. ix

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pp. xiii-xviii

Economist Thomas Sowell wrote in his chapter on “The Mexicans” (Ethnic America: A History, 1981), “The goals and values of Mexican Americans have never centered on education [italics added]” (p. 266). Many other scholars and media figures have similarly asserted that Mexican American parents, particularly of low-socioeconomic status...

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pp. xix

This book would not have been possible without the contributions of a number of individuals. I gratefully thank Deborah Gershenowitz, Senior Editor at the New York University Press, for her support throughout this project. Appreciation is also extended to Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, coeditors of the Critical America Series, for their...

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Introduction: Understanding and Analyzing Mexican American School Litigation

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pp. 1-6

Beginning with the Romo v. Laird (1925) school desegregation lawsuit in Arizona, for more than eight decades Mexican Americans have been engaged in a hard-fought legal struggle for educational equality. Yet few scholars are aware of this long-standing struggle. Contributing, in part, to this unawareness is Mexican Americans’ exclusion from much...

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1. School Segregation

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pp. 7-78

The early forced segregation of Mexican American students became the crucible in which school failure of these children and youths originated and intensified. The intentional separation of Mexican American students from their White peers in public schools began in the post-1848 decades following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The...

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2. School Financing

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pp. 79-116

The schooling process represents one of the most influential agencies of socialization in the lives of children and youths. Yet, as adults, few of us realize the enormous size of this “big business.” Formal education employs more people than any other business in the United States (Brimley & Garfield, 2005) and is very costly. Expenditures for public...

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3. Special Education

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pp. 117-152

According to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (2002), in the 2000 – 2001 school year, approximately 12.7% (n=6.1 million) of the country’s 47.8 million pre-K to grade 12 public school children (ages three to seventeen) were enrolled in special education programs in the fifty...

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4. Bilingual Education

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pp. 153-197

The United States of America has been and continues to be a polyglot nation. Even before the arrival of European explorers, the indigenous people spoke more than five hundred languages in the geographic area presently known as North America (Lawerence, 1978). During the American Colonial period, linguistic diversity flourished, as seen in the...

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5. School Closures

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pp. 198-223

Four decades ago, many individuals hailed education in the United States as the new growth industry. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, declining enrollments caught the K – 12 educational system by surprise (Boyd, 1982; also, see Abramowitz & Rosenfeld, 1978). A decline in the birthrate (overwhelmingly among the White...

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6. Undocumented Students

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pp. 224-250

On April 10, 2006, nearly two million people (mostly Latino) marched in seventy cities across the United States, protesting the restrictive immigration bills before Congress (Mangaliman, Rodriguez, & Gonzales, 2006). The current “immigration crisis” (López, 2005) reflects the historical vicissitudes of America’s hostile attitudes and policies toward...

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7. Higher Education Financing

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pp. 251-267

The legal category of higher education financing significantly departs from the other groupings, with higher education as the target educational level. In 1990, Mexican Americans living in the “Border Region” of South Texas filed LULAC v. Clements, complaining that although 20% of all Texans reside there, the region only receives 10% of the state’s higher...

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8. High-Stakes Testing

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pp. 268-305

Currently, an educational reform movement is sweeping across K – 12 public education in the United States, affecting millions of school-children and youths. This collective, pervasive, and top-down course of action — which I refer to as the “standards-based school reform movement” — holds students, educators, and administrators accountable for...

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Conclusion: The Contemporary and Future Status of Mexican American – Initiated School Litigation; What We Have Learned from This Legal History

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pp. 306-320

In this final chapter, I offer some thoughts on the contemporary and future status of school litigation brought forth by the Mexican American community. First, I discuss two lawsuits that have been recently litigated. My coverage is brief because the cases may be appealed. Second, I speculate on the types of educational lawsuits Mexican Americans may...


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pp. 321-400


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pp. 401-444


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pp. 445-483

About the Author

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pp. 484

E-ISBN-13: 9780814724040
E-ISBN-10: 0814724043
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814788196
Print-ISBN-10: 081478819X

Page Count: 480
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Discrimination in education -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Mexican American students -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
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