The historic case of Mendez v. Westminster was brought to life at Wednesday’s meeting of the Westminster City Council.
Jasmine Chhabria, a ninth-grade student, performed her symbolic re-enactment of the landmark legal case on school desegregation, a presentation she calls “Mendez vs. Westminster: Conflict and Compromise in Segregated Education.”
Acting in several roles, including the original plaintiff – Sylvia Mendez, who was present to watch – and her mother, as well as a judge, she recounted how the family battled against the practice of educating Mexican children in a different school than whites.
A lawsuit, supported by the League of Latin American Citizens, challenged the policy of school systems not only in Westminster, but also Garden Grove, Santa Ana and El Modena districts of racial segregation.
The 1947 court case was won by the Mendez family, opening the way for an end to school segregation in California. Prominent civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case, using the same arguments he later used successfully in Brown v. Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared school segregation unlawful across the nation.
Westminster will be giving further commemoration of Mendez with a park and a bike trail commemorating the landmark legal decision.