The Supreme Court and its Supreme Influence in the Human Movement (by Vicente Robles)


To widen students’ thoughts on the basis and valuable influence that the court system placed on the fundamentals of education and in return also influenced the many people rights movements. To help students question and challenge the incomplete history presented by textbooks.


This lesson plan is designed to essentially follow a timeline of Supreme Court cases specifically ones that dealt with the educational system both within and across the states. Scholars will take advantage of primary and secondary sources so that they may gain knowledge and better understand the effects in society that derived from the educational changes that were enforced by the Judicial Branch of the United States of America. Students will accept the challenge to be placed in the situation that students of color were in during the 20th century. In doing so, they will obtain the understanding on the power of the judicial courts and their large magnitude effects that continue to effect minority students today.
On the last day, students will randomly be assigned roles and given a paper with certain characteristics that they must follow. This will be a simulation of something extreme that they will not face in their lifetime, but an accurate representation of customary and common activities that minority students took part in during times of de jure segregation.

Essential Understanding:

The court cases regarding education brought upon the biggest changes in terms of rights and opportunities for minorities. The cases fed off of each other and set precedents that encouraged other cases to reinforce the positive outcomes.

Essential Questions:

1. In what ways did the oppress influence the decisions and outcomes of the Supreme Court Cases.
2. In which ways did certain cases affect others and become precedents to future rulings?
3. How did was the Westminster v Mendez case different than the Brown v Board?
4. What are similarities between the larger minority groups of Latinos and African Americans?
5. What varied between the experiences of black, brown and white students?
6. Why are some significant cases omitted in history textbooks?
7. Why did the court organization and rulings contradict the government in the sense that America held an image of not following its own system of set laws?
8. What is the basic conclusion that the Supreme Court came to with each of the following cases: Mendez v. Westminster, Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, Brown v. Board of Education, Brown v. Board II, U.S. v. Texas, and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.
9. What would schools look like today without these significant cases being carried out?


It is very significant to know that the Supreme Court had the final say and technically still has the final say in how the United States of America is run economically, politically, and socially. During the twentieth century, movements arose which called for change in the way society was run. Discrimination and segregation was alive all over the states and did not only target one group of people, it affected all minorities including but not limited to African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans and other groups of people that fell out of the white spectrum. Some of the most important court decisions were those which changed the conservative basis of the educational systems. The reason that these cases were superior in terms of helping the movements reach their goals of equality and freedom was that they enacted a start of equal access. With equal opportunity, the rest of the issues would calm down. Parents of hard working students knew that in order to change their status, schooling was the way to do so. For that reason, they targeted the educational systems and argued for equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the United States. One of the most recognized cases is Brown v. Board of Education but there are others which had similar effects or even larger effects such as Westminster v. Mendez.
Mendez v. Westminster seems to be the most underrated cases with the most influence on the equal education. It included the victory of a Mexican family over a school district which led to the desegregation of the school. After this case, there were later cases in which desegregation occurred. For example, Sweatt v. Painter struck down the constitutional idea of Plessy v. Ferguson which concluded that segregation was okay as long as it brought “separate but equal” opportunity. The issue with this conclusion was that it was only for a specific school. Brown v. Board of Education then took that conclusion and set it through the whole United States. Soon after desegregation was agreed on, the issue of integration came about. Many were for it and many against it. The arguments against it were that keeping minorities limited on their access to their rightful culture depleted the success that they had in school.
The lesson plan will include an understanding of the court cases that follow the timeline at the end of this schedule. Some of the events brought about desegregation in a specific area while some in a broader border. Others tried to regulate the speed at which integration would occur. Although the educational changes were to change the way that young scholars were treated, in terms of roles in society, the community would have to wait a while for that student generation to grow and change the images set on their people.


• Other sources are referenced in “additional sources”


1. Hand out printed versions of the two political cartoons, the desegregation graph, and the timeline with major cases. Give the students 2 days to study for a cases quiz in which they will complete in teams of two. Have either some of the case names or main phrases of the briefs missing and have them fill out the empty spaces. In class display the video cited in the reference section of this lesson plan and discuss the graph with the students. Have the students write quick reflections on their initial thoughts brought upon by the video and the graph. Warn them to be ready to share with in groups of 5 students. For homework give the students access to the sources below and have them read and listen to them so that they may be ready to have a discussion in class. Have them write a 2-3 sentence summary about each source and turn it in. Examples of quick, informal and acceptable summaries can be found later in this document.
2. Begin by collecting the written summaries after a 10-14 minute discussion is carried. After doing so, ask the students to retrieve the political cartoons they received and take time to analyze their message. Be sure to state that these cartoons were created far after the outcomes of the cases. Have a lecture explaining that the media including information that was and is shown on television, newspapers, textbooks and other sources were not and are not the full story to life. Have the students go through the timeline in groups and explain how each of the cases affected those that came after and how they were affect by those that came before. Challenge them for homework to find either articles, ads, or stories that involve one of the court cases in the timeline and have different points of views on the outcomes or approaches. Apart from that simple task, ask them to discuss school segregation with their parents and grandparents. Some of them may be fortunate enough to have close contact with primary resources as witnesses or even victims of the oppression.
3. Give 8 minutes to take quiz. Give the students the opportunity to turn in quiz corrections. Ask students to share both of their homework assignments in groups of 6 and have each group share one example to the class. Then in order to keep the class focused on the idea that desegregation in schools did not start or end in 1954, have them write answers to the list of essential questions and turn them in during class. Their answers will prepare them for their last assignment. For the remaining of the class time, have them play the roles of white students, black/and or other minority type students, and white teacher. Randomly assign one person to be the teacher and 3 people to be colored students. “Give” the teacher the power to punish the students if they misbehave and to specifically be harsher on the colored students. Give the white students the opportunity to watch entertaining and educational videos while you have the colored students sitting on the floor facing a wall and reading out loud from their textbooks. Hand doughnuts to the privileged and a small portion of not so delicious bread to the minorities. This activity serves as an extreme simulation of not only school segregation, but of school integration and injustice within society in the past.
4. Compensate the victims of the activity by reducing their next assignment from 8 pages to 2 pages. Assign all students to focus on writing a paper that focuses on analyzing the effects of school segregation on both white and minority students and on society as a whole. Have them include one source and include some insight on their experience during class. Include the constraint that they may not have their source be the Brown case as you want the students to explore cases and events outside of anything that their textbooks include.

Source Summaries:

This is a primary source, specifically a hand-written note by the Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to Chief Justice Earl Warren. The simple fact that the source is a note as opposed to a letter shows that these two people felt some sense of connection and the content of the note reveals that connection. It was that Douglas agreed with Chief Justice Warren’s opinion that state and federal courts should both rule on the subject of school desegregation. This note was written just a few days before the rehearing, but there was a clear mindset that Warren had and that people knew he had. He wanted equal but not neccessay separate basis for education. As he stated, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” he supported that in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal,” placed by the Plessy v. Ferguson case, had no place.
Seven years before Brown v Board, Mendez v Westminster ended segregation for Mexican Americans in California. This recording from National Public Radio consisted of an interview from Sylvia Mendez whom at 9 years old was turned away and sent to the school of Mexicans in Orange County. The Mexican school received the leftover supplies and materials from the more privilege school and apart from that, had “under qualified” teachers and less opportunities. Mendez’s father and four other families united with one goal; to improve dreams, equality, accessibility, and the success of their children. They filed a class action law suit against the school districts and eventually received the victory which desegregated schools in California. Mendez argues that desegregation improved the lives of more than Mexican students. After the ruling, it was revealed that teacher training manuals were found which advised school staff that 70 percent of Mexicans were mentally ill and inferior. The Justices that ruled in favor of Mendez stated that, “even Mexican children that easily outperformed their white peers where stigmatized.”
Although having change start at the basis of educational levels would mean that it would take a while for the adult generation to see the effects, it was clear that attacking the struggle at the root of educational institutions was the way to go. Emphasize on this source was placed on the idea that desegregation was not being pursued because it was magical to sit next to a white student, but because opportunities should be shared.
This article focused on the Westminster v Mendez case and included the idea that “by doing away with cultural and language differences, they could create cultural harmony with the community.” Although the intent to gaining connection with the society around Mexicans was right, the method of riding of Spanish was wrong. The argument that the 14th Amendment placed was that the government was not following its ruling that “no state shall make or enforce a law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens.” The source also mentions that Earl Warren, as a California Governor, lobbied against the state’s educational codes that allowed for segregation in public schools. Years later, In 1954, he also took a major role in Brown v. Board of Education.
This source is a primary source which gives 3 justifications for the outcome of the Regents of the University v. Bakke case. The source begins by stating the outcome which called it illegal for schools to use affirmative action as an admission tactics if it meant that reverse discrimination were to occur. It then continues to give us the background and later the specific outcome of the plaintiff. He was admitted to the school.


1. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
2. Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
3. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
4. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
5. Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.
6. Students identify bias and prejudice in historical interpretations.
7. Examine and analyze the key events, policies, and court cases in the evolution of civil rights, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and California Proposition 209.
The following is a concise timeline of a few court cases that, although hardly recognized, contributed to the change in the lives of the oppressed.
1947: Mendez v. Westminster:
Mexican parents filed a class law suit against the board of education of Santa Ana and Westminster because the segregation of white and Mexican schools deprived Mexican students from reaching their full potential. This case set a precedent for Brown v. Board.
1950: Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents:
Court struck down segregation of African American students in law and graduate schools. The Justice Department, agreed that Plessy was unconstitutional and that separate was in fact not equal. NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers, led by Thurgood Marshall, began to devise a strategy that would force the Court to re-examine the constitutionality of the separate-but-equal doctrine.
1954: Brown v. Board of Education:
Chief Justice Earl Warren, reading his first major opinion from the bench, said: “We conclude, unanimously, that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
1955: In Brown v. Board II:
The Supreme Court held that school systems must abolish their racially dual systems, but could do so “with all deliberate speed.”
1971: U.S. v. Texas
The federal government sought to desegregate two contiguous school districts, one predominantly white and the other overwhelmingly Latino. The district judge found that English language and cultural barriers which planned to assimilate minorities, limited the successful integration of Latino students and that addressing the language limitations of students was therefore an appropriate desegregation device. He ordered bilingual education for all students in the district.
1978: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke:
The decision stated that affirmative action was unfair if it lead to reverse discrimination.

Additional Sources:

Douglas, William O., Harrold H. Burton, and Felix Frankfurter.1954. “William O. Douglas to Earl Warren.” Mcc/052. N.p., n.d. Web. Mar. 2013.

“Before Brown v. Board of Education”.”All Things Considered.” National Public Radio. NPR. 22 Mar. 2004. Radio.

“School Desegregation and Equal Educational Opportunity.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. CivilRights, 2013. Web. Mar. 2013.

Castillo, Marry. “USARiseUp.” Mendez v. Westminster: The Unknown Civil Rights Victory That Created Racial Equality. OnRace, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. Mar. 2013
v “Regents of the University v. Bakke Decision Page 1.” Google Images. N.p., 1978. Web.2013.<
N.P., n.d. Web.
N.P., n.d. Web.
N.P., n.d. Web.

"Separate but Equal – A Documentary about Segregation in Public Schools." YouTube. YouTube, 10 May 2012. Web. 2013. .

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