LOS ANGELES (June 12, 2018) – Fifty years ago on March 1, 1968, the school communities of Garfield, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Wilson, and Belmont high schools led the call for educational justice. Considered one of the largest non-violent student civil rights demonstrations in history, the organizers and supporters were subjected to harassment, verbal, and physical abuse without intervention from the L.A. Unified Board of Education majority at the time.
Today, the L.A. Unified Board of Education unanimously approved President Mónica García’s resolution: Apologizing for the 1968 L.A. Unified Board of Education majority’s traumatic, physical and psychological response toward the participants of the East Los Angeles walkouts for educational justice.
“In 1968, youth walked out. Since then, we walk-in to opportunities created by this civil rights movement in Los Angeles. We persevere, we own our history, we graduate, we vote, and we make a new path,” said President Mónica García. “We apologize for the open wounds and the injustices of the past that were encouraged, caused, or exacerbated by the board of education majority of 1968. We must learn from history, and in this instance, never repeat it. We thank the courageous voices demanding high-quality education 50 years ago. The foundation of student voice and leadership in L.A. Unified is firmly rooted in liberty and justice for all.”
“I stand with our board members in apologizing to the many thousands of students who suffered greatly simply for demanding equitable treatment,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “We have come a long way in 50 years, but much work remains to be done.”
Participants and organizers from the 1968 East Los Angeles Walkouts reflected on the apology from the Board of Education.
“The ‘68 Walkouts politicalized me and raised my consciousness as I witnessed a Board of Education bent on maintaining the status quo by having no expectations of us. They saw us as uneducable and were encouraged to either go to war, work in menial jobs or become accidental parents,” said Mita Cuaron, Walkout organizer that attended today’s board meeting with fellow classmate Cassandra Zacarias. “Because I protested for a better education, I would be manhandled, followed, attacked with a Molotov cocktail, and ultimately arrested along with my Father, Aunt, and John Ortiz’ brother.”
“At the time, I was planning to be at Roosevelt, meet with students that had walked out, and guide them to safety,” said Rachel Ochoa, another Eastside LAUSD graduate and participant. “Upon arriving on Soto Avenue, I could not believe the violence that they met on the part of the Los Angeles Police Department. I knew my only recourse that day was to protect student lives and guide them to safety, especially the women.”
“The family of Sal Castro and the Sal Castro Foundation applauds the L.A. Unified Board of Education for the public apology for the traumatic, physical, and psychological harm done to the participants of the 1968 East Los Angeles Student Walkouts caused by the actions of the 1968 LAUSD Board of Education,” said Charlotte Lerchenmuller, Sal Castro’s widow and President of the Sal Castro Foundation. “This apology validates Sal Castro’s, the 1968 Los Niños Heroes’, and the East LA 13’s belief in educational justice, the first amendment right of redress of grievances to the government, and the power of the student voice. Apology accepted.”
Dr. Bianca L. Guzmán, Director of the Pathway Programs Office and Professor of Chicana/o, Latina/o Studies at California State University, Los Angeles said that the “LAUSD is a national leader in promising practices for excellence and I appreciate the board’s action to apologize to the families of the Eastside for all the physical and psychological damage. Many of the students that graduate from L.A. Unified are the students that attend and graduate from our campus. The impact of this resolution certainly has positive effects for our Eastside scholars.”
“An apology for the act of forgiveness is an act of remembering. The Mexican origin community of Los Angeles has a ‘collective memory,’” said Dr. Alexandro José Gradilla, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department Associate Professor at California State University, Fullerton. “This act by the board would not create an erasure but put a down payment toward healing and remembrance.”
Board Members shared their thoughts on this historic action.
“With this action, this Board seeks to make amends with the students of 1968 who the Board of Education failed to support,” said resolution co-sponsor Board Member Kelly Gonez. “We are also renewing our commitment to the students of 2018 and beyond to provide a great public education for all, no matter their background.”
Another resolution co-sponsor, Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez shared that “as Mario Savio famously stated, sometimes the operation is so odious that you have to put your bodies upon the gears to make it stop. In March of 1968, a critical mass of students lived that idea when they walked out of their schools en masse to demand equity and dignity. The 50th anniversary of that walkout serves as a reminder of those students’ courage, how far we have come since then, and how far we need to go. I am glad we are commemorating their actions, and even happier that we are celebrating their spirit and cause.”
“Today the Board apologized for mistakes made 50 years ago, knowing full well that we have come a long way, and that we still have a long way to go,” said Vice President Nick Melvoin. “I hope that the lessons of 1968 will inspire us to work harder for the Class of 2018 and beyond.”
Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic: “As we continue our work today to right historic wrongs in our diverse communities, we must pause and reflect on the dramatic moments of the past that have led us to the work we are doing today.“
Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766