Editor’s Note: Insensitive language frequently used in the mid-20th Century is included in this story.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that racial desegregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Some school districts were not swayed by Brown v. Board of Education and found ways to discriminate.
Mexican-American students in Driscoll, Texas, were purposely held back to avoid “retarding” the white students. Students with Spanish surnames were made to take first grade for three years. It didn’t matter how fluent they were in English, or if English was their primary language. As a result, Mexican-American students were graduating from high school in their early 20s.
A group of eight elementary school students went to court in 1957 and sued Driscoll Consolidated Independent School District. The suit was filed on their behalf by the American G.I. Forum, a group founded to battle discrimination against Hispanic veterans.
Enrique Alemán is a professor and chair in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Alemán’s mother turned out to be one of those eight children. She mentioned her involvement in a court case in passing to him once, but he never made the connection until he saw a documentary on Hector P. Garcia, founder of the American G.I. Forum.
Alemán decided he needed to track down the seven surviving students involved in the lawsuit. He documented his journey in the film “Stolen Education,” which he co-wrote and executive produced.
“Stolen Education” is available for rent or purchase on Amazon. Amazon Prime members can watch it for free.