In 1968, thousands of high school students in East Los Angeles walked out of classes to demand an equal and culturally relevant education. At the time, graduation rates for Mexican-American youth were abysmally low and corporal punishment was used to discipline them for speaking Spanish. These walkouts, the largest demonstrations by youth in the city’s history, came to be known as the Blowouts. School administrators initially pressured students and teachers to abandon their plans. When the students refused, the administrators barricaded doors to prevent anyone from leaving. Those who did were jailed, brought back, or in some cases beaten.
Ultimately, the student walkouts succeeded in bringing about changes that leveled the playing field for people of color in schools. Among them were the introduction of ethnic studies classes and English language programs that today are regarded as best practices in public education.
Some 50 years later, students across the country and at the school where I teach are seeking justice outside the classroom once again. After one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history, our students are saying, “Enough!” and walking out of classes to demand meaningful policy change.
Disruption of the status quo by young people is often met with skepticism at best and threat of punishment at worse. As word began to spread about the #Enough National School Walkout, educators like me grappled with how to respond. Should we engage students on the issues of gun violence and school safety? Would we encourage or punish them for walking out and leaving the safety of our campus to exercise their right to free speech?
I believe that part of our responsibility as educators is to help students critically engage with current political realities and guide them in these acts of empowerment. Click here to read more: http://laschoolreport.com/why-im-supporting-my-la-middle-school-students-in-walking-out-of-class-for-a-cause-they-believe-in/