Sal Castro, teacher who led ’68 Chicano student walkouts, dies at 79

Los Angeles teacher Sal Castro photographed at the steps of City Hall. Castro was one of the leaders of the 1968 Chicano student walkouts, a protest for better schools that is considered the start of the Chicano movement.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Salvador Castro, a social studies teacher who played a leading role in the historic 1968 Chicano student walkouts protesting rampant bias and inequalities in the Los Angeles Unified School District, died Monday, the district announced. He was 79.

Castro, known as “Sal,” was a Lincoln High School teacher who guided student walkouts at five predominantly Mexican American schools on the Eastside in what came to be seen as a milestone in community activism. The students demanded bilingual education, ethnic studies and other changes at a time when the curriculum largely ignored Mexican American history and educators forbid Chicano students to speak Spanish and often steered them toward menial jobs rather than college despite strong academic abilities, according to the district.

Castro was arrested and charged with conspiracy to disrupt public schools and disturb the peace for his alleged role in guiding the “blowouts.” But the charges were eventually dropped and he came to be hailed as a courageous civil rights leader. Salvador B. Castro Middle School was named after him several years ago.


“He will be remembered as a teacher, counselor, leader and courageous adult who stood with students in the 1968 walkouts and ever since dedicated his life to learning and leadership,” board President Monica Garcia said in a statement. “Sal Castro’s courage and dedication will continue to be inspirational to future generation of students and educators.”

L.A. Supt. John Deasy called his work “heroic” and said Castro would continue to inspire district efforts to insure that all students graduate prepared for college and careers.


Sal Castro fights for recognition

Sal Castro wows Festival of Books crowd

Cecilia Preciado Burciaga, 67, Latina administrator

Twitter: @TeresaWatanabe | Facebook