Argentine High School
Jesus and Luz Alvarado, Marcos De Leon, and Victorina Perez graduated from the Clara Barton School eighth grade in Kansas City and enrolled in Argentine High School. Though they had had no conflict with their fellow students, after a week of classes a group of white parents presented a petition to the local board of education to have the four Mexican students removed from the school. The board refused to take any action. In anger, the white parents made threats against the Mexican American community. These threats weren’t strong enough to spark fighting between the white and Mexican American communities; but the parents of the students still feared for their safety and withdrew their children from school. The parents began a fight to integrate Argentine High.
Kansas City was the only school district in the state legally allowed to have segregated high schools. The district provided a separate high school for African American students, and a middle school for Mexican American students. With so few Mexican students, the board of education offered instead a separate classroom, with their own teacher. The parents of the four students refused, hoping to prevent further segregation. The school board then offered to pay tuition and transportation for the students to cross the border and attend a Kansas City, Missouri, high school that was for Mexican American students. Again, the parents refused.
The board of education eventually relented and told the parents of the Mexican students to send their children to school “if they thought it safe to do so.” But the board did not offer the students any security. The parents decided to keep their students at home and use diplomatic channels in attempt to achieve their goals. Since the Mexican students were considered "friendly aliens" under the law, the parents filed a complaint with the Mexican consul. The consul began to put pressure on the board. The governor of Kansas, Benjamin S. Paulen, asked the superintendent of schools to justify the segregation. Justification might be made for poor language skills or poor hygiene, but this was not the case for the Mexican American students. The board couldn’t force the segregation, and the white parents continued to threaten the Mexican students. The Wyandotte County attorney claimed the white parents "violated the constitution, international treaty rights . . .and the promise between Mexico and the United States," but the parents of the white students were never charged, and no legal case was pursued.
After the Mexican students had missed a year of school, they were reenrolled for the 1926-1927 school year. There is no clear answer as to what brought about the end of this case other than time, and acceptance of the part of the white parents. With the entry of the students, Argentine officially became integrated, opening a door for other Mexican American students wishing to attend high school in Kansas City, Kansas.
Portions from The Kansas Journey
Entry: Argentine High School
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: February 2011
Date Modified: June 2011
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.