The Edcouch-Elsa High School Walkouts

Context for the Edcouch-Elsa Walkouts

On November 14, 1968 in Edcouch-Elsa, about 150 to 200 Mexican and Mexican-American Edcouch-Elsa high-school students (junior and senior level) walked out of their high-school at 10 a.m. to boycott the high school, teachers, administration, and the Edcouch-Elsa school board officials. The reason for the walkout was due to the principal and school board staff not hearing and implementing the list of demands and recommendations the Mexican and Mexican-American students had the day before. Another reason the students walked out and boycotted their school was due to the segregation, racism, discrimination, and the unfair treatment they endured every day from their teachers, counselors, and school administration. For three days, following the walkout, these students protested for better education, end segregation, racism and discrimination against them, and to receive better treatment from the teachers, counselors, and school administration. After the walkout and protest ended, there were many students who were expelled or suspended that had participated in the walkout and protest. This walkout was the first walkout/protest to ever happen in South Texas. (Deiner, 2008) & (Martinez, 2017)

Eddy Gonzalez, Mirtala Villarreal, Xavier Ramirez, Raul Arispe and Jesus “Chuy” Ramirez, not only participated in the walkout, but were the ones who planned the walkout and were the leaders for the walkout. Days before the walkout, these five Mexican-American high-school students started to organize a coalition of Mexican and Mexican-American students. They talked to their Mexican and Mexican-American classmates about the segregation, racism, discrimination, and unfair treatment that they faced daily and for many years throughout their education. Also, they heard and wrote down every concern of each student they talked to. After hearing the concerns of the students, the leaders of the coalition started to make a list of demands, once the list was completed they would present it to the Edcouch-Elsa high-school principal Melvin Pipkin and after presenting it to the principal, they would present it at a school board meeting. The list was composed of fifteen demands and two recommendations. After showing the list to the principal and him taking it as a joke and him not wanting to call a school board meeting to have the students show the list to the school board officials, the leaders of the coalition decided to call the school board officials to ask for an emergency meeting. The school board officials denied their request and said they would have to wait until November 18, 1968 to discuss the list. The leaders of the coalition were very upset over this and decided to plan a walkout and boycott the high-school and their classes the next day – November 14, 1968. (Deiner, 2008), (Martinez, 2017), & (Barrera, 2004)

The List of Demands

“We, the student body of Edcouch-Elsa Junior and Senior High School, demand of the officials and administrators:

1. That no disciplinary action be taken against any student or teacher that has taken part in this movement and that all suspended students and teachers be reinstated to their previous post or office and that any mention of such action omitted from school records. Also, all intimidations should stop.

2. That no threats, intimidation or penalties be made against any student by teachers or administrators for membership or attendance of meetings of any club or organization outside of school.

3. That the students be allowed to select their own candidates for Student Council — it should be the students Student Council.

4. That excessive and unfair penalties and punishments stop being given students for minor infractions or completely ridiculous reasons, for example: a) student suspended three days for failure to keep appointment with teacher after school. b) student suspended for three days for failing to stand at school pep rally! c) if something (shorts, tennis shoes,) are stolen from lockers the students are punished (paddled or sent to do manual labor) for not being able to suit up! Likewise, that due process be followed in cases of suspension or expulsion of students, that is, that a student be given opportunity to defend himself and that evidence be presented to both administrators and parents. Also, no paddling should be given student until an explanation for punishment be given to parents if students request such explanation.

5. That no teacher or administrator shall use profanity or abusive language in presence of students and in no case shall any teacher or administrator lay a hand on a student.

6. That, in the case of tardy or absent students, the students be allowed to re-enter class and no points taken off until his excuse is verified or not. Students should not be kept out of class till parents call school.

7. That either the price of the cafeteria lunch be lowered to a more reasonable price or that more and better foods be served.

8. That, as Chicano students, we be allowed to speak our mother tongue, Spanish, on school premises without being subjected to humiliating or unjust penalties.

9. That courses be introduced, as a regular part of the curriculum, to show the contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans to this state and region. For instance, factual accounts of the history of the Southwest and Texas, courses in Mexican history and culture. Also, that qualified, certified teachers be hired to teach these courses.

10. That all college preparatory courses be signaled out for students by time they enter high school.

11. That more effective counseling be given students from understanding counselors that are able to relate to students. Present student-counselor ratio is too great, we need more counselors. Likewise, more assemblies on career opportunities, availability of scholarships’, grants, loans, college entrance requirements, etc.

12. Finally that the blatant discrimination against the Mexican American students in this school stop immediately. We demand Justice.

13. That regulations for “passes” be set down clearly and defined so that no question remains as to when passes are needed or not. The present system, or lack of it, is ridiculous.

14. That special attention be given the situation a great number of Edcouch-Elsa students find themselves in — that is, they are migrant workers. a) Student choices of subjects in spring registration be respected and adopted in the fall term, these subject forms are often disregarded. b) Migrants leave school early, they take part in an accelerated program advance tests are supposed to be given before they leave. Often teachers do not let migrants take tests or do not send tests to students up north after them. All tests should be given to migrant students before they leave.

15. That school facilities be improved, renovated, replaced or installed where appropriate. For example: a) Fans – Teachers often use fans only for their own comfort, ignoring students. b) Heaters – The heaters are for the most part outdated and not in working order. We need new heaters. c) Restrooms – Some of the restrooms and toilets are not cleaned and inoperable; constantly out of repair. d) Windows – Fix broken windows. e) Walls – Repair holes in wall. Give school buildings a face-lifting. f) How about hot water for the showers.
We want to be proud of our school.

The Recommendations

1. Teachers have been driving buses for the district up till-now. We recommend that either students, senior students, or townspeople be hired to fill these positions.

2. We recommend that longer periods of time be given to get to classes between classes. Five minutes would be sufficient.”

The Edcouch-Elsa High School Walkouts