Chicano Students and the Courts

The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality

508 pages

13 illustrations

March, 2010

ISBN: 9780814788301



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Richard R. Valencia is Professor of Educational Psychology, Faculty Associate of the Center for Mexican American Studies, and Fellow in the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Chair in Education at The University of Texas at Austin. His books include Chicano School Failure and Success.

All books by Richard R. Valencia

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.


  • “The longstanding rap on Latino parents, particularly Mexican Americans, is that they are too passive, an old trope from movies and the iconic peasant taking his siesta under a palm tree. But as Valencia’s detailed book shows, these parents have been resisting school perfidy and indifference for well over a century, even against courts and school boards that have been downright hostile to their claims. I found it fascinating reading, and learned a great deal, even though I thought I had known or read all these cases. I was wrong. He has corrected this record in an authoritative fashion that has set the bar for the rest of us.”

    —Michael A. Olivas, editor of “Colored Men” and “Hombres Aquí”

  • “In this book Valencia effectively weaves together a wide variety of large and small, famous and forgotten, Chicano legal challenges to educational discrimination and ties the entire corpus of activism around the concept of critical race theory. This book is successful as a reference work and as a synthesis of critical race scholarship on the varied, confusing tangle of Mexican American educational litigation. . . . Valencia’s study offers enterprising historians myriad ways in which to engage the increasingly paramount subjects of Mexican American education, race, poverty, and immigration. In this original and laboriously researched book, Valencia successfully communicates the size and complexity of the Mexican American community’s quest for better schools—and how much more is left for historians to do on this important yet neglected topic.”

    American Historical Review

  • “This book is a significant contribution to the literature on Mexican American activism in education and documents in rich detail the successes and failures of these legal struggles . . . It is highly recommended for scholars, historians, educators, lawyers, and community activists of all colors.”

    The Journal of American History

  • "Valencia's book breaks new bround in bringing together the many relevant court cases and using critical race theory to explore the intersections of law and education . . . Valencia succeeds in tracing the important legal history associated with Chicano educational rights and convincingly demonstrates how instrumental Chicano activism has been in fostering improvements in Chicano educational opportunities."

    —Isaac Cardenas, Journal of American Ethnic History