‘We have some very powerful kids’: Speculation grows for another Uvalde walkout

In 1970, students walked out of Uvalde CISD schools for six weeks.

School starts on Tuesday for the students of Uvalde CISD -- it’s the first time they’ll be back in the classroom since the shooting at Robb Elementary took 21 innocent lives.

UVALDE – School starts on Tuesday for the students of Uvalde CISD -- it’s the first time they’ll be back in the classroom since the shooting at Robb Elementary took 21 innocent lives.

The months that have followed have been filled with anger, heartbreak, and calls for change.

It’s reminiscent of a time 52 years ago in Uvalde, where students rose up and walked out demanding an end to racism.

“I grew up a few blocks from, from the school, from Robb, and I attended Robb, you know, myself,” Abelardo “Lalo” Castillo said.

He’s the only living non-student organizer of the 1970 Uvalde walkout.

Before Robb Elementary was known as the site of a mass tragedy, it was the site of unrest.

“We had a lot of problems with segregation and discrimination and things of that nature. In school, with our, with our classes, with our teachers we didn’t have a lot of Hispanic teachers,” Castillo said.

Castillo sat down with KSAT at Uvalde Memorial Park, it’s just over a mile away from Robb Elementary.

“The catalyst for the walkout was the fact that the principal at Robb Elementary did not want to renew one of the only Mexican-Americans or teachers that we had. His name was George Garza,” Castillo said.

Students of Uvalde CISD wouldn’t stand for Garza to be fired, so they asked Castillo and other organizers for guidance and walked out of their classes.

According to Alfredo Santos’ article “Remembering The Uvalde Public School Walkout of 1970,″ students had a list of demands for the school district.

List of the 14 Demands - Uvalde School Walkout

  1. It is stated in the United States Constitution that in our country an individual has the freedom to seek justice and his well-being. Therefore, the students who have been participating in this walkout should not be punished or reprimanded in any form or fashion for their just causes which are being demanded.
  2. It is also relevant that the principal of the Robb Elementary School is not capable of holding the position that he has. Therefore, we demand his resignation.
  3. The grade level in Uvalde is very low considering our grade level with the Anglo in our community. Therefore, we see it fit to demand that bilingual education be incorporated into the primary grade curriculum.
  4. It has also been brought to our attention that the contribution of the Mexican-American to this society and culture has not been given proper recognition. Therefore, we also demand that the textbooks be revised as well as teaching methods in order to properly reflect our contribution to the “Anglo” dominated society.
  5. We also see it fit to demand that if any teacher in the system disagrees politically or philosophically with the establishment’s view, that they not be dismissed nor intimidated.
  6. There have also been complaints by students that they have been ridiculed by their teachers because of their language barrier and also of their culture. Therefore, we see it fit to demand that every teacher, administrator and member of the staff be educated so that know our language- Spanish- and be able to pronounce our names correctly, understand our history, tradition, and contributions of Mexican- Americans. How can they expect to teach us if they do not know us? We also demand that more Mexican-American teachers be hired.
  7. We want September 16 as a holiday, but if that is not possible, we want an assembly with speakers of our own. We feel that it is a great day in the history of the world because it is the date when the Mexicans were liberated from the harsh rule of Spain. Our ancestors fought in this war, and we owe them tribute because we are Mexicans too.
  8. Being civic-minded citizens, we want to know what the happenings are in our community. We therefore demand the right to have access to all types of literature, and to be able to bring it on campus.
  9. It is also demanded that a course on Chicano education with the full value of full credit be offered in the high school.
  10. Any and all nominations and elections done while the Mexican- Americans were out should be declared invalid.
  11. Since in the last four years only five Mexican-Americans have been chosen to “Who Who,” it is plain to see that the prejudice lies with the teachers; we demand that the elections to “Who’s Who” be left to the student body.
  12. We demand a Mexican-American counselor be hired at Uvalde High School and Junior High so the Mexican-American may benefit.
  13. Seeing that the majority of students at Robb Elementary are Mexican-American, we demand a Mexican-American principal.
  14. All students who participated in the walkout should be allowed to make up work missed with the teachers’

On the first day, 200 students left their classes and after a while, that number grew to 650.

“The students started you know, coming out of the classrooms and they walked out... out of the schoolyard and up to the, the sidewalk. And then the other schools followed,” Castillo said.

Their walkout lasted six weeks. Most students were held back as a punishment, and seniors didn’t get their diplomas.

But Castillo said it was seen as a victory. This was a pivotal moment where students and their families stood up against racism and fought for what’s right.

It’s something that is familiar to the Uvalde community today.

“The leadership back then was garbage. And look what happened. The leadership is still garbage now. And look what happened,” Brett Cross, Uziyah Garcia’s guardian, said.

Brett and Nikki Cross can’t say for sure what will happen Tuesday when classes start, but they’re hoping this generation looks to the past for guidance.

“I hope so. I think we have some very powerful kids here,” Nikki Cross said.

It’s the kind of guidance that Castillo is ready to supply should it be necessary.

“They want the walkout. And what I’m going to be doing is I’m going to get them ready to have a walkout if they wish to do that,” Castillo said.

Castillo said he’s proud of the walkout they did in the 70s but believes the young people now can do an even better job and create more permanent and meaningful change for the current and next generation.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.