Francisco Maestas et al. v. George H. Shone et al.
Educational Desegregation 1914
The nation’s earliest and longest-unheralded victory in the war against Hispano/Mestizo educational segregation took place in Alamosa, CO.
In 1912, The Hispano children of Alamosa were forced to attend a separate school from Anglos. The Alamosa School Board at the time argued that the Spanish speaking students needed language support and they should attend classes taught in Spanish in their own school building.
Despite the fact that the area had long been part of the United States, and the families were American citizens, the reference was made to “Mexican” and “American” families.
Francisco Maestas and other members of the community tried to switch their children's school to the English speaking school because their children were fluent in English. They were denied. They petitioned for change with a resolution that was signed by 180 families. They were denied. They staged a boycott in protest, an action the school district later seized upon to claim Maestas wasn’t interested in his son’s educational progress. The boycott went on for three months. They organized further and with the help of the SPMDTU took the school district to court. And won.
A railroad man, Francisco Maestas, knew the dangers of the railroad crossing, as well as the weather and, on Sept. 2, 1913, went to the superintendent of schools and asked to enroll his son. The request was refused and Maestas was told he had to enroll his son in the “Mexican School.” Miguel was kept out of school by his father due to an organized walkout which was part of the parent protest against the segregated school.
Judge Holbrook was convinced that school officials had used the English language deficiency and the academic unpreparedness of some Mexican American children as a rationale to send them all to the Mexican School up to the fifth grade. He declared English-speaking Mexican American children had the right to attend public schools near their homes, or schools of their choice, in the Alamosa School District.
Photo 1908 by O.T. Davis