'Stolen Education' — Elementary Students Challenged Discrimination In Texas Schools In 1950s | Texas Public Radio

'Stolen Education' — Elementary Students Challenged Discrimination In Texas Schools In 1950s

Jan 20, 2020

A largely-forgotten court case about race discrimination in Texas schools is brought to life in a documentary.

It’s been a personal journey for the film’s executive producer.


When Enrique Alemán, Jr., was a kid, his mother mentioned that she had been a part of a court case as a child. After she passed away, a fleeting memory came rushing back to him when watching a documentary about a court case in Driscoll, Texas.

Enrique Alemán
Credit Flor Olivo

“She was actually the first of the eight students to testify in federal court against her teachers in the district,” said Alemán. He said it was “to prove that she could speak English as a 9-year-old second grader, almost 10 years old.”

Alemán tried to track down the other children who testified in the landmark court case. That journey is chronicled in his own film “Stolen Education.”

Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954. But schools found ways to discriminate.

Driscoll Consolidated Independent School District placed  children with Hispanic surnames in first grade. For three years. And it didn’t matter whether they could speak English fluently or not. There were no proficiency tests. Just the implication that Mexican-American children were “lesser than.”

Alemán describes this case as another example of undertold Texas history. 

“This is an example that literally in my own home — and I have a doctorate in educational policy — literally in my own home, I never knew about this until I had that flashback,” he said. “And so that that always just bothered me. I wanted to figure out a way to reclaim that history.”

Alemán has traveled across the country screening the film, and though it’s been more than 60 years since that court case, he has seen how the film resonates with audiences.

“And without fail,” he said, “the Q & A typically turns into folks talking about their own experiences, about how they've experience schools, about how their own language was raised, about how their families had to struggle through inequitable schooling.”

Alemán knows that to prevent repeating history, it must never be forgotten.

Alemán is professor and chair in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, University of Texas at San Antonio. He is the executive producer and co-writer of “Stolen Education.”

“Stolen Education” screens Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the YWCA Olga Madrid Center in Castroville. It is screened in partnership with the San Antonio Public Library and the Las Palmas Branch.

It’s also available to rent or purchase on Amazon.

View a trailer of the film here.

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1.