Sal Castro, Veteran Teacher and Advocate for Educational Equity, Dies at 79

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April 21, 2013
Photo by Jim Ober. Courtesy of Herald Examiner Collection / Los Angeles Public L
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On April 15, 2013, Sal Castro, a teacher and counselor in Los Angeles schools for more than 35 years, died at his home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

In March 1968, Castro was a 34-year-old social studies teacher at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles. He helped organize Chicano students who were frustrated by overcrowded, understaffed, and run down schools in their neighborhoods.

Using the word "blowout" as the password for a student strike, 300 Chicano students walked out of Wilson High School on March 1.  The following day, 2,000 walked out of Wilson High School; the next day they were joined by 4,500 students from nearby Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools.

Students were unprepared for the violent police reaction to their protest.  As students picketed in front of their high schools, Los Angeles police officers descended, attacking them with clubs. 

Officers identified student leaders and chased them through residential neighborhoods, where Mexican American families looked on in shock.

The "blowouts" and the police response attracted national attention, spotlighting the bleak educational conditions in East Los Angeles.

Eventually Castro and 12 others were indicted on charges of criminally conspiring to create riots, disrupt the functioning of the public schools, and disturb the peace.

Thousands of people picketed in front of the Los Angeles jail to support Castro and the 12 others who were called the "East L.A. Thirteen."

Charges were ultimately dropped against the East L.A. Thirteen after an appellate court judge ruled that they were exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights.

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