My Turn: Court ruling in 1974 leveled playing field in Portales schools

By Helena Rodriguez: PNT columnist

All that’s left of the historic W.E. Lindsey Elementary School in north Portales now is a huge pile of rubble.

Demolition trucks demolished this epicenter of my childhood last week.

There are no longer walls, but rocks. And if rocks could talk, they would shout out vibrant stories of festive Mexican fiestas at this once-segregated school where, in the 1970s, more than 90 percent of students were Hispanic, and at one time, there wasn’t a single Hispanic teacher in the classrooms.

All of that changed with the 1974 court case, Serna vs. Portales Municipal Schools, a case that became a precedent, requiring the school district to implement bi-lingual and bi-cultural education.

The school district was also required to hire bilingual teachers.

As I started sixth grade at Lindsey, the schools were also desegregated, meaning each school was assigned certain grade levels and students were bussed to the appropriate school.

And so that year, all the sixth-graders in Portales came to Lindsey and Lindsey’s student population became more diverse. In my opinion, and I’m sure statistics will confirm this, the playing field became more level, although not completely.

Since the 1970s, the achievement gap that was once so obvious between Lindsey students and other students across town, has become much narrower.