The East L.A student walkouts were the outcome of discrimination from Southern California schools against Mexican-American students to pursue higher education. This impactful walkout occurred in 1968 and was a protest for equal educational opportunities. The walkouts were organized by students who wanted the same educational possibilities as white students. In the 1960’s the East Los Angeles District was not allowing Mexican-American students to take advanced placement classes because the school district did not think these groups of students were capable of succeeding in these advanced courses.
These walkouts became known as “blowouts” and were organized by students with the help of their leader, Sal Castro. The lack of educational resources was one of the reasons for the protests. Chicano students in this time were assigned to “Mexican schools” like Lincoln, Roosevelt, Garfield and Wilson which was created by the government for “Mexican students.
” These schools were segregated Mexican high schools that encountered poor conditions and were not well done. The reason these schools were created was because many identified theses students as “unable to learn.” In these schools which were only for Chicanos, the students were provided with limited educational resources. For instance, many of the history textbooks were outdated and lacked to mention any historical context about Mexicans.
The lack of Mexican history showed students that their culture was not as important and that they simply were not a priority since they did not have access to the same information other students did. Many of the students in these schools were only allowed to take extra curricular classes that were focused on agriculture. Agricultural classes were specifically on field labor and gardening. This illustrates how the district officials saw the future of Chicano students as becoming labor workers. The lack of attention these students were receiving from teachers, counselors, and outdated school sources lead to the dropout of about 60%.
Furthermore, this implies the idea that the district officials saw the students of being “incapable” to strive for anything bigger than a field worker. Surprisingly, many teachers believed that Chicanos were “mentally impaired” or unable to achieve anything higher than elementary level education. This caused unprofessional educational treatment towards these students and was one of the biggest acts of discrimination that the students encountered. The teachers did not take the opportunity to actually teach the students and make a change which lead students to lose interest in going to school. Only one teacher in the many years of this segregation thought it was time for a change. Although, many of the teachers and even students thought that there would never be any change in the disadvantage of education being faced, that soon changed.
A teacher at Lincoln High School, named Sal Castro, motivated many Chicanos to pursue higher education and to not become dropouts. Sal Castro is known as the major figure in the Chicano struggle for educational justice in the United States. This leader gave students the inspiration and support to question why they don’t deserve better education and equal rights. This leader, Sal Castro was able to convince his students that they were capable of so much more that he was able to help organize with them what became known as the blowouts.
The student movement did not just contain the students from Lincoln High School but from, the organization known as “La Raza Unida Party” and others that believed it was time for change. According to Gilbert, these protesters that initiated in East Los Angeles soon became the voices of many other Chicanos around California that were facing the same unequal treatment in education. The student walkouts caused many to fear because many were realizing that it was not acceptable to be treated differently and that it was time to fight back. Another example that demonstrates the success of the walkouts as an effective movement is through the unity with the Brown Berets, who originated from the Young Citizens for Community, the role they had was to protect the students against the police threats because many police officers would harass the students or arrest them for promoting disturbance of peace. The participation of the Brown Berets provided the students with more confidence and determination to achieve their goal.
Ultimately, ?the “Mexican Schools” in East Los Angeles that confronted discrimination in the education system was Belmont, Garfield, Wilson, Lincoln with 90% of Chicano student population, and Roosevelt with 83%. The altitude of educational reforms was in high demand through the unification of Mexican high schools because Chicano students wanted change in the education system. For example, in Paula? Crisostomo’s “The year the students walked out” press release exemplifies Paula Crisostomo’s leadership role in representing Lincoln high school during the student walkouts and as well as her purpose of contributing to the movement as she stated:”Our requests for reform were not new. Community groups had been asking school administrators for reform, but getting nowhere, Nobody would help us and we had to do something dramatic to get their attention. ..
. We weren’t doing anything frivolous. We wanted a better education, But we were told over and over that we were not good enough and smart enough. But saying that we knew we were better than that was powerful.
” Paula Crisostomo’s point of view of the Student Walkout determines that she was involved and was aware that there was a lot of discrimination that was set upon Chicano students and that her role as a leader shows how it was not just adults taking action but students wanting to become someone. The continuous action of student walkouts on March 6 through March 8 in 1968: gained momentum as 2,700 students from Garfield, 500 students from Roosevelt, 15,000 Students from Lincoln, Wilson and Belmont decided to join the Student Walkout movement. The ties between political and militant activist Chicano groups began to formulate their demands through the formation of the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC) after the board of education decided to listen to the student’s demands of school reformation on March 11 in exchange to halt the progress of student walkouts.
According to the “East L.A Blowout: Walking Out for Justice in the Classrooms” students identified thirty-eight demands to the Los Angeles Board of Education. The demands proposed by students were a set of reformations that the students wanted the board of education to consider like new school resources, Chicano school representatives, the freedom to practice their traditional language which in this case meant of allowing Chicano students to speak Spanish in school facilities but unfortunately not all demands were met because the board of education claimed that there wasn’t enough funding for Chicano programs.
From another point of view, the government was not the only groups that was against student movements but also middle class Hispanics. Chicanos viewed the movement as insignificant. The implications of the rejection of some of the thirty-eight demands proposed by the EICC, determines the position of the board of education in East L.A. when discussing reformation for Chicano students. Overall, contradiction within internal and external Chicano groups, ranging from social status led to the departure of militant groups from the EICC.
The East L.A. Walkouts were successful for students to express their opinions about the education they were receiving and the changes they wanted to see. This movement helped to create organizations were students would be able to help one another succeed. The walkouts were the beginning of change but there was still a long way to go, because the government had not accomplished every demand that was presented by the students. Significantly, the outcome was a good one because it did change many of the educational problems but also helped change the education of the future Mexican-Americans.