The Los Angeles Unified School District this week hosted several events celebrating the 50th anniversary of a series of famous protests by Chicano students to call attention to inequalities in education.
School officials unveiled a plaque and mural on Thursday commemorating the East Los Angeles Walkouts, which took place from March 1 to March 8, 1968. Some 22,000 students stormed out of classes at the peak of the walkouts. The Los Angeles Times referred to them as the beginning of “a Mexican American revolution.”
The district also issued a press release announcing that there will be a reeanactment of a famous school board meeting in which “students stormed LA Unified headquarters demanding educational justice.”
But at the same time, the LAUSD is actively trying to clamp down on a walkout in 2018. Interim superintendent Vivian Ekchian is asking students to not leave their classes on March 14—the day activists are calling for national school walkouts to demand Congress pass stricter gun regulations.
Ekchian urged parents this week to “talk to their children and encourage them not to leave campus,” according to the local Los Angeles CBS News affiliate.
Instead, Ekchian is urging students to honor the 17 people killed in the Parkland shooting by participating in school-sanctioned events.
“Our goal is to provide students with opportunities to express themselves in a safe manner that respects the school environment and all perspectives,” Ekchian said, according to CBS News.
One of the lead organizers of the 1968 East Los Angeles Walkouts told Splinter he would definitely walk out if he was a teen today.
“I totally support students in their fight against any oppression or injustice,” Bobby Lee Verdugo, who was 17 when he helped organize the walkouts, said.
Verdugo said he saw parallels to what he experienced in 1968 and what student activists are facing now. At the time, Verdugo said critics called him a puppet of outside agitators, just as students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been accused of being pawns of gun control advocates.
Verdugo, now 67, said teachers, counselors and other members of the community should join the students in walking out to ensure they stay safe—and that he would be standing with them.
“I’ll be there,” he said.