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Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



World War II Incarceration

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Japanese Americans in California:

Segregated Schools
Sacramento County

Courtland Bates Oriental School Site
Florin East Grammar School
Isleton Oriental School Site
Walnut Grove Oriental School Site

In August 1921, the California legislature amended the School Law of California so that "The governing body of a school district shall have power to exclude children of filthy or vicious habits, or children suffering from contagious or infectious diseases, and also to establish separate schools for Indian children and for children of Chinese, Japanese or Mongolian parentage. When such schools are established, Indian children or children of Chinese, Japanese or Mongolian parentage must not be admitted into any other school."

The Florin School District responded by building a new structure for White children, while the older Florin East School became the "Oriental School." Asian children in Florin attended separate schools until 1939, when the local Japanese American Citizens League persuaded the school board to terminate its segregationist policy.

Three other school districts in Sacramento County (Courtland, Isleton, and Walnut Grove) also practiced de facto segregation before the legislative amendment of 1921. In the office of the River Delta Unified School District, the first Register for Public School for Walnut Grove in September 1908 lists a teacher, I.M.C. Smith, who had 16 Asian children in her classroom. By September 1920, a year before the amendment was passed, the Register was labeled "Oriental School." Ten years later, 62 students attended the White school, 29 attended the Migratory School, and 222 attended the Oriental School. Segregated schools in Walnut Grove continued until 1942, when all Japanese Americans in California were interned, leaving Filipino and Chinese students in the Oriental School. Financial considerations were apparently the deciding factor in desegregating the schools in 1943.

In Isleton, a decision was made to segregate Asian children after the Christmas holiday of the school year beginning in September 1909. All Asian names disappeared from rosters of the previously integrated classrooms in January 1910, and segregated class lists appeared. Similarly, the Courtland Bates Oriental School was built around 1922, although segregated classrooms had been in effect for years before.

After the World War II internment, a Japanese family challenged the constitutionality of California's separate school provision. The Los Angeles County Superior Court concurred that segregation on the basis of race or ancestry violated the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1947, the California legislature repealed the amendment that provided for separate schools for Chinese, Indians, and Japanese.

The Florin East School is the only extant structure that was used as an oriental school in Sacramento County. The other three were razed more than 25 years ago. The Florin School, a one-story, U-shaped, green stucco structure with a tarpaper roof, is located in an area where Japanese resided and operated small stores. On the site of the Courtland Bates Oriental School, a new elementary school now stands. The former school sites in Walnut Grove and Isleton are vacant.

Florin East Grammar School
Florin East Grammar School, Sacramento County

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