essay helper

Being Latino on Google Plus

The student walkouts at East LA Schools – 45 years later: Have things changed?

It is a time, an event,  that is lionized in the mythos of Latinos in the United States and especially among the Chicanos of East Los Angeles.  The first week of March 1968 when students at Lincoln High School and several other Los Angeles schools walked out of classes to protest the discrimination they faced on a daily basis and the inadequate resources in their schools.  In the days that followed, thousands more students in other California schools, as well as other schools across the country, joined by walking out of classes to protest similar conditions in their districts.

The student leadership at Lincoln High School presented a list of 39 demands to authorities.  It was the beginning of a golden age for Latino education in Los Angeles and California—right?  Wrong!   This is where the myth runs into reality.

The reality is that at the schools where the walkouts occurred, things have not changed that much.  Dropout rates are as high, if not higher, today than they were in 1968.   There have been some improvements in cultural recognition and physical sites but no real substantive changes.

Luis Torres, a leader of the walkouts and a broadcast news reporter in Los Angeles for over 25 years, even wrote in a 2008 op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times commemorating the 40th Anniversary that the results of the walkouts were more perception than reality, “The Chicano walkout was about dignity…Forty years ago, the Los Angeles school board was the Man. Today, it is an ally with the community in the effort to improve education. We have come very far in many ways, but we have a long way to go.”

Looking at the Los Angeles School District State of the Schools Report, the LAUSD Performance Meter 2011-12, there is a long way to go.  Latinos have about a 57% graduation, among English Learners that figure is less than 40%.

The basic reality is that while there have been cosmetic improvements in curriculum and programs, physical facilities, and cultural respect and toleration, the main purpose and results of the Los Angeles education system—graduating Latinos who are ready for college and for leadership positions at the local, state and federal level—have not changed significantly in the 45 years since the walkouts.  Some of the individuals involved went on to brighter and better things, but most did not.  College attendance and the higher paying jobs, that come with higher education, is still the exception rather than the rule.

There is nothing to suggest that the intended legacy of student walkouts will be achieved anytime soon.  This goes not only for Los Angeles but for every urban school district in the United States with a sizable Latino component.


By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity. Jeffery is a mostly socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Republican Anglo male who is involved in his local Hispanic community as the widower of a 1st generation Mexican-American woman and his active, some would say hyperactive, membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC).  

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. LAUSD gets excited about small incremental percentages of improvement in performance…but doesn’t 57% graduation rate equate to a 43% failure rate? The deteriation of the educational system in Los Angeles began many years ago and it will take just as much time (and additional tax dollars) to recover if at all possible.

Speak Your Mind