MALDEF

Santamaria v. Dallas Independent School District

At Preston Hollow Elementary School, a public school in an upper-income neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, Latino and other minority students were segregated into the school’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classrooms. They were kept separate from the Anglo students in the school, even though the majority of the Latino students in the ESL classes were proficient in English and some had even tested in English and been classified as “gifted and talented.” The Latino students were not allowed to mix with the Anglo students even in art, music, and physical education classes and were grouped in classrooms in separate hallways from the Anglo students.

In April 2006, MALDEF filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and Principal Teresa Parker of Preston Hollow Elementary School alleging that the defendants had segregated and discriminated against Latino school children in violation of their civil rights. MALDEF represented Latino parents who alleged that Preston Hollow illegally used its ESL program to segregate Latino and minority students from Anglo students, irrespective of their language abilities.

Following trial, and in a lengthy opinion, U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay criticized the defendants for their “separate but equal defense” and ruled that Principal Parker segregated minority students on the basis of their race in violation of the U.S. Constitution by operating, in effect, a private school within a public school for the Anglo students. Judge Lindsay ordered the principal to immediately cease the segregation and pay punitive damages to the injured students.

This victory against the principal’s blatant discriminatory practices preserves access to equal educational opportunities for all students.

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund