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February 26, 2021

Landmark education case stemming from Soledad marks 50 years

Monterey County leaders recall ending of discriminatory IQ tests against Latino children

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to honor the 50th anniversary of the landmark education and civil rights case of Diana v. California State Board of Education during its Jan. 26 regular meeting.

The case began with Soledad students and finished with the ending of discriminatory IQ tests in state schools. California Rural Legal Assistance attorneys Marty Glick and Maurice “Mo” Jourdane were credited with bringing the case forth on behalf of nine Soledad migrant children, Diana, Arturo, María, Manuel, Rachel, Ramón, Armando, Margarita and Ernesto, ages 6 to 13.

“This landmark case arose out of the community of Soledad, when parents reached out to CRLA community worker Hector de la Rosa to seek help about challenging the practice of using discriminatory, racist and culturally biased IQ tests that were used to place Latino limited English proficient children at Soledad Elementary School into special education classes,” Supervisor Luis Alejo said.

Alejo explained the tests classified the children with the term “Educable Mentally Retarded.”

“These IQ tests were done in a language that children didn’t even understand and were also culturally biased,” Alejo said. “At the time nearly 13,000 Mexican-American children were placed in such classes, but were not the only ones. African-American and Latinos made up 21.5% of the state population at the time but were 48% of all special education pupils in the state.”

Glick and Jourdane filed the class action lawsuit on Jan. 7, 1970.

“It was successfully won and settled within weeks under San Jose District Court Justice Robert Peckham,” Alejo said. “The Diana case also inspired a subsequent landmark case … to ban culturally biased IQ tests against African-American children, too. So the impact of this case helped thousands more children in our state.”

Alejo noted that while the case is not well known today, it helped change the lives of thousands of children in California.

“Most importantly, it exemplifies to this day, the courageous efforts by Monterey County students, parents and advocates to champion the education and civil rights of children of color in California,” he said.

Supervisor Chris Lopez contrasted his comments from Alejo’s by instead looking at the present and seeing what has yet to be done to end discrimination.

“The average spent on a student in a year is $11,000,” Lopez said. “In schools where it’s a white majority in that school district, it’s $20,000, nearly twice as much per student. And that is today here in Monterey County.”

Lopez continued the point by looking at the educators themselves. He said though Monterey County is primarily Latino, 61% of teachers are white.

“When we look at the needs of our students here in Monterey County, the challenges are still before us,” Lopez said. “The challenges we’ve come so far already to conquer have put us in a position where we can have these critical conversations. … On behalf of every student in Monterey County, it’s critical that these conversations are had at the highest level.”

CRLA Executive Director Jose Padilla commented on the presentation, saying the organization had a vision and dream to “bring justice to voiceless communities like farmworkers living in places like Soledad.” He noted the farmworkers were able to come forward with their complaints out of a trust for the CRLA team.

“Fifty years later we continue trying to deliver on that justice promise for educational equity,” Padilla said.

“It’s important we continue to highlight this landmark case and our community understands the significance of this case so that these type of discriminatory behaviors don’t happen again in our communities,” said Soledad Mayor Anna Velazquez.

Velazquez said the anniversary for the case was fitting in alignment with the city’s own centennial anniversary.

“It’s critical we acknowledge our history and our past and we learn from that and learn there’s still a lot of work to be done and we continue to fight for systems that are just and equitable for all our students,” she said.

Sean Roney
Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.

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