Equity & Diversity

Uvalde Schools Aren’t Defined by One Tragedy. Here Are Key Moments in Their History

By Ileana Najarro — August 16, 2022 2 min read
Students walking in the streets of Uvalde, Texas participating in the 1970 Uvalde School Walkout. Pictured bottom right in numerical order are Mary Helen Canales, Lee Lugo, and Alfred Santos.
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In Uvalde, Texas, the local schools are part of a complex history of discrimination, activism, progress, and grief for the area’s Mexican-American community.

After the horrific shooting in May 2022, the schools of Uvalde entered a new chapter in the town’s story, one where community advocacy will likely play center stage once again—just as it did many years ago during a 1970 effort to secure better schooling for its Mexican and Mexican-American families.

As families try to figure out how to put the pieces of their lives back together, they’ll be writing the next chapter of this story.

For now, let’s take a look back at a few key events in the history of the community’s relationship with its schools.

Early 1900s

A Mexican deputy sheriff wants his children to attend a white school in town, prompting a threatening letter from the Ku Klux Klan.

December 1969

Students of Crystal City, a neighboring community, hold a walkout demanding better access to quality education. By this time, a national movement for Mexican, Mexican American, and Chicano rights has gathered strength.

Participating in the Uvalde School walkout of 1970 pictured from left to right, Eddie Alvarado holding sign "Viva La Raza" and Heraldo Perez holding sign "Animo Raza!" Behind them are Pablo Hernandez and Silvestre Ontiveros.

April 14, 1970

Uvalde students and parents lead their own walkout demanding more Latino teachers, that Spanish be permitted be spoken in school, and better instruction overall in the schools. That same year, parent activist Genoveva Morales files a lawsuit against the school district for discrimination. It seeks integration of the schools.

1975

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit finds that the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District failed to desegregate its schools—reversing in part a previous court opinion. The decision leads to a consent decree issued in 1976, which was later modified several times over the years.

The streets of Uvalde, Texas in 1970.

2013

Superintendent Jeanette Ball is hired. During her tenure, which lasts about six years, she develops a dual language program in the district.

2014

The junior high school in the district is named after Genoveva Morales.

Mexican American students of Uvalde Junior High School participated in the six-week school walkout in Uvalde, Texas.

2017

The 1970 class action against the Uvalde school district is resolved.

2018

The Uvalde High School valedictorian references school shootings in her graduation speech. That year, 27 people are killed in school shootings, including at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February, and at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas in May.

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Supt. Dr. Hal Harrell speaks during a news conference to provide an update following the recent school shooting at Robb Elementary, Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Two teachers and 19 students were killed in the mass shooting.

Spring 2021

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell says federal relief funding from the coronavirus pandemic will go towards addressing learning gaps, improving the learning environment, and enhancing safety.

2021-22 school year

The district’s dual language program grows into a charter school as demand for the program surges.

May 24, 2022

A mass shooting at Robb Elementary takes the lives of 19 students and 2 teachers.

Visitors walk past a makeshift memorial honoring those recently killed at Robb Elementary School, Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. A Texas lawmaker says surveillance video from the school hallway where police waited as a gunman opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom will be shown this weekend to residents of Uvalde.

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Sources: Education Week reporting; Uvalde Leader-News
A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 2022 edition of Education Week as Uvalde Schools Aren’t Defined By One Tragedy

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