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How 1968 East L.A. Student Walkouts Ignited the Chicano Movement

In the early days of March 1968, as many as 22,000 mostly Mexican American students walked out of their classrooms at seven Los Angeles schools, garnering national attention. The unprecedented event spotlighted educational inequality, galvanized the Chicano civil rights movement and inspired a new generation of activists, artists, educators and elected officials.

The schools involved served the Mexican barrios of the city’s Eastside neighborhoods, or East Los Angeles, where Chicanos or Mexican Americans made up about 75 percent (130,000) of the student population. Students protested the vast educational inequality they faced: schools that were run down and understaffed, teachers that were overworked and undertrained. Class size averaged around 40 and the student-to-counselor ratio was 4,000-to-1, according to the United Way of Los Angeles. Students also complained they were being steered toward vocational and domestic training, instead of academic courses that would help them get into college.

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