The Guzmans’ tireless efforts not only led to desegregation of public schools in California, but to the ultimate desegregation of all public schools in the US
(Santa Ana, CA) – On Monday, July 15, the Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) Board of Trustees recognized the William and Virginia Guzman family of Santa Ana – the first to file suit challenging school segregation in Orange County in the 1940s – at its Board of Trustees meeting.
Although the Guzman's initial suit against the Santa Ana School District was unsuccessful, the family ultimately banded together with other families in the Westminster, El Modena and Garden Grove School Districts of Orange County to file and win the historic class action lawsuit Mendez et al v. Westminster et al in 1946. While the school districts appealed the case, the ruling that school segregation is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment was upheld. Two months later, California's Governor Earl Warren signed a bill ending school segregation in California, making it the first state to officially desegregate its public schools.
Eight years later, Thurgood Marshall, who collaborated with Mendez attorney David Marcus in Mendez et al v. Westminster et al, cited precedent from the Mendez et al v. Westminster et al case to ultimately win Brown v. Board of Education – the landmark decision that established racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional, even if segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.
In addition to the William and Virginia Guzman family of Santa Ana, representatives from the “et al” families, including the Frank Palomino family of Garden Grove and the Lorenzo Ramirez family of Orange were in attendance at the July 15, Board of Trustees meeting. The Thomas Estrada family of Westminster was invited but unable to attend.
“We pay tribute to William and Virginia Guzman and the “et al” families for their courage and perseverance in not only righting the path for the children of Santa Ana – but for children throughout the country,” stated RSCCD Trustee Arianna Barrios. “Those instrumental in Mendez et al v. Westminster et al courageously changed the course of history for the betterment of our country and our children.”
About Rancho Santiago Community College District
Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College are public community colleges of the Rancho Santiago Community College District, which serves the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Santa Ana, Villa Park, and portions of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, and Tustin. Both colleges provide education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.