50th Anniversary of the filing of the landmark school segregation case Alvarado et. al vs. El Paso Independent School District

Press Release

Link: Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrc-yurzosEtFw-rOod13_fDgSIHDstZvM

For Immediate Release, Date: October 24, 2020

Contact: Raymundo Eli Rojas, rayrojas@rayrojaslaw.com

The El Paso Chicano(a) History and Preservation Project will mark the 50th Anniversary of the filing of the landmark school segregation case Alvarado et. al vs. El Paso Independent School District[1]. The milestone will be observed on Oct. 28 with the presentation of a panel composed of some plaintiffs and plaintiff lawyers involved in the case. The panel will take place via Zoom at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Registration is required and space is limited.

Filed in 1970, this lawsuit sought to end the segregation of Mexican American students within schools in the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD). The lawsuit was brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund with local counsel Alberto Armendariz, Sr. and Alberto Armendariz, Jr. 

Panelists include one of the plaintiffs who is now Judge Maximino Daniel Muñoz who grew up in the El Paso upper valley neighborhood of Pacific Park (located near Sunland Park Drive and Doniphan Drive). This neighborhood consisted of mostly low-income Mexican Americans families. EPISD had manipulated the attendance and matriculation borders of Pacific Park to cut off Pacific Park children from attending a mostly-White elementary school, which was less than a mile from the neighborhood. EPISD required the children in this neighborhood to attend an elementary school almost four miles away, and for a time, the district did not even provide busing to that school.

Similarly, EPISD had drawn the matriculation border to cut Pacific Park out of Coronado High School’s attendance zone, and put Pacific Park in to the El Paso High School attendance zone. El Paso High School had become majority Mexican American by 1970 and was almost seven miles away from Pacific Park. The then 8-year-old Coronado High School was less than three miles from Pacific Park. EPISD had carved out the White affluent Kern Place neighborhood, which was less than a mile from El Paso High School, and placed it in the newer Coronado High School’s boundary. Coronado High School is about eight miles from Kern Place.

The panel will also include Carlos Alcala, Chair California Democratic Party Chicano Latino Caucus and formally of MALDEF; and Alberto Armendariz, Jr. who along with his father, the late Hon. Alberto Armendariz, Sr., were local counsel on the case.[2]

In 1971, Judge Ernest Allen Guinn, dismissed the case in a one-page court decision that has been characterized as one of the most negative federal court decisions regarding school segregation and which brought chastisement from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals who eventually overturned Guinn’s decision.

In December 1976, Judge William S. Sessions ruled that EPISD was running a duel system for Mexican American and White students. EPISD had created Mexican schools and American schools, and had manipulated attendance boundaries to keep some schools majority White or to keep the Mexican American student population at a tipping point of 33%.

Sessions found that EPISD had vastly underfunded Mexican schools in comparison to schools in predominately-White neighborhoods. In many Mexican schools, the buildings did not have air conditioning, but the American schools did. EPISD gave new textbooks to the White schools, and placed used textbooks at the Mexican schools. These, and many other actions by EPISD, were found discriminatory and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

EPISD would fight against desegregation for more almost ten years, appealing Judge Session’s 1976 opinion to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In April 1979, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, which included the desegregation order and well as other remedies.

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The Mission of the El Paso Chicano(a) History and Preservation Project is to revise, rediscover, and preserve El Paso’s Chican@ history through education, academic and popular publications, revision, and activism.


[1] The Alvarado last name refers to David Alvarado, a resident of Pacific Park.

[2] Other attorneys involved representing the Mexican American students and their families were J.B. Ochoa (deceased), Fred Weldon, Vilma S. Martínez, Peter D. Roos, S. Anthony Safi, Joaquin Avila, Joel G. Contreras, and Linda Haten. Defending EPISD’s segregation policies were A. R. Grambling, Morris A. Galatzan (deceased) and Harold L. Sims (deceased), and Sam Sparks of Hardie, Grambling, Sims & Galatzan. Other interested parties who may have been third party filers were attorney Ronald R. Calhoun who  represented Sidney Brooks, and Jack Ratliff represented the Lincoln School (El Paso) Parent Teacher Association. Lincoln Middle School is at 500 Mulberry Ave in El Paso’s Upper Valley.