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March 2008: 40th Anniversary of First Chicano Student Walkouts; Experts Available

March 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the Chicano student walkouts from five high schools protesting unequal conditions and discrimination by teachers and administrators in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hundreds of students walked out that first day. Thousands more students walked out of classrooms as the movement spread throughout California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.

The 1968 walkouts were the subject of the 2006 HBO movie Walkout, produced by Moctesuma Esparaza, who spoke at the Education Writers Association meeting in Los Angeles.

Two Pomona College professors are available to explain the significance of the walkouts, their effectiveness and their importance as the beginning of the Chicano Movement.

  • Gilda Ochoa is an associate professor of Sociology and Chicana/o Studies and the author of Learning from Latino Teachers (2007) and Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican American Community: Power, Conflict and Solidarity (2004).
  • Tomás Summers Sandoval is an assistant professor of history and Chicano studies whose research has focused on racial identity and civil rights. His current project is a book on the formation of the Latino community in San Francisco.

“The school blowouts are often credited as the start of the Chicana/o Movement. They drew national attention to the experiences of Mexican Americans in schools, encouraged other walkouts throughout the Southwest and Midwest, and helped to set in motion the formation of Chicana/o Studies classes, programs, and departments in colleges and universities throughout the United States,” explains Ochoa.

“If the Chicano Movement is framed as the Chicano movement for civil rights,” says Summers Sandoval, “this is the Western incarnation of brown power movements that sought to change their society. This is a part of the 'American' story, as important as any other well-known civil rights endeavor.”

Despite the walkouts’ national impact, there is still much progress to be made. Latino students are still the least likely of all groups to graduate high school. A 2005 Harvard University report noted that only 39% of Latina/o students in the L.A. Unified School District graduated on time. A 2006 UCLA study, based on year 2000 census data, found that out of every 100 Chicano students who begin elementary school in California, 54 will drop out or be pushed out of high school, 46 will graduate and eight will graduate from college with a bachelors degree.

You can reach Gilda Ochoa at (909) 607-2604 or read more about her. You can reach Tomás Summers Sandoval at (909) 607-2916 or read more about him.