In a South Texas school district in the 1950s, Mexican-American students had to complete three years of the first grade before moving on.This practice prompted a lawsuit filed by eight Mexican-American students and their families against the Driscoll Consolidated Independent School District.
That lawsuit was the topic of the feature film, “Stolen Education,” Produced by Dr. Enrique Alemán, Jr. and Directed by Rudolfo Luna. The film was recently screened in Las Cruces along with a discussion on educational inequalities in schools today.
Dr. Alemán, Jr. is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah.
For the film Dr. Alemán, Jr. traveled back to his hometown to learn about the eight Mexican-American students who testified in the 1957 case Hernandez v. Driscoll Consolidated Independent School District. Growing up he learned that one of the students was his mother, Lupe.
“This part of South Texas, there were a lot of farm working families. So you had migratory patterns, and you also had lack of access to high paying jobs. For a lot of these families they were only regulated to certain jobs with the type of power structure owning the land, running the school board, running the city councils, and so parents and kids were relegated to these types of second class citizen experiences,” Says Alemán.
Desegregation in schools did not happen overnight after Brown v. Board of Education, (1954). It was lawsuits like this one that continued to challenge discriminatory practices.
“When you think about it happened right after the Brown v. Board of Education court case so it was in line with a lot of other court cases that were being brought to the courts. I think it was part of a the legal strategy of a lot of these other civil rights groups, that they were trying to chip away at some of the engrained and entrenched discrimination that was happening,” says Dr. Alemán.
The film also showed the impact civil rights groups who were beginning to organize and challenge segregation in court.
“We had leaders in our community and they were willing to put up a fight, a struggle for better opportunities for their kids. That’s a story that’s not often told in our textbooks and in our history. We should understand that our grandparents were part of that activism and part of that leadership,” says Dr. Alemán.