40 YEARS AFTER “THE WALKOUT” — A TURNING POINT IN LAUSD EDUCATION REFORM (PART 2 OF 3)
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read Part 1 of the series at The Walkout — How a Student Movement in 1968 Changed Schools Forever.
The fight for equality takes many forms. But at its most fundamental level, there’s often a central, key point: equal access to opportunity. And in few places has this disparity in opportunity been more glaring than the educational system.
The Los Angeles student walkouts of 1968 were a crucial flashpoint in the movement to achieve equality for Chicano students in the L.A. Unified School District. A movement that would affect students of all backgrounds and heritages. But social change is seldom quick. It would take more than 40 years for district policies to officially grant these and other minority students the right to college-readiness programs.
This is the story of how a grassroots movement forced a fundamental change in educational equality in Los Angeles.
And it’s a story as fascinating as it is frustrating.
FOLLOWING THE WALKOUTS, CHANGE FALTERED
Following the student walkouts of 1968, change was painfully slow. Media coverage had been minimal to the point of being almost nonexistent, so the issue of institutionalized bias in the school system soon faded from the broader public memory. But for those on the front lines, the seeds had been planted. And those seeds steadily grew.
Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Los Angeles schools began to see more Mexican-American educators, administrators, and even superintendents. But the core issues remained unresolved.
Luis Garza, a contributor for La Raza magazine, who documented some of the demonstrations during the 1968 Walkouts, sums up the social climate at the time.
"When you look at the makeup of the board of education and city government, you realize that there is no representation from your community,” said Garza. “It’s what goes on to this day.”
“You’re trying to engage in a dialogue and instead you’re getting beat up by clubs and you’re getting shut down at the board of education. You have to rally the forces and march and march until you get heard.”