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East LA high school principal removed, student walkout victory

By Sol Márquez

James Lotter in the blue hoodie (center) at Centro CSO meeting.

Los Angeles, CA – Students from East LA Performing Arts Magnet (ELAPA) at Esteban E. Torres High School walked out April 27, to demand the removal of Principal John Edward Estoesta. The students were initiated into action when one of their beloved teachers, James Lotter, who teaches AP literature, was fired in front of his students with zero explanation.

Lotter was scheduled to meet with Estoesta to address staff and student discontent regarding cases of racism, homophobia, transphobia, victim-blaming, and an early dismissal of students that interrupted the Black National Anthem during a Black History Month assembly. A block of more than a dozen teachers promised to resign their positions if Estoesta was not removed. The April 27 walkout was organized by students who wanted the principal gone. Administrators walked around the campus, locking the doors and threatening to keep any students who walked out from reentering their school. But that didn’t stop the angry and motivated students.

Administration took out all classroom art supplies to prevent students from making posters for the walkout they organized. A student who wishes to be anonymous said, “Our principal has engaged in racist conduct, violated the rights of students, pressured teachers, and created a hostile environment where everyone is wondering who the principal will target next.”

Centro CSO united with ELAPA students, parents, and teachers, creating a petition that demanded the immediate removal of the principal. Teachers with Centro CSO and the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) organized a town hall. LAUSD Board member Dr. Rocio Rivas was invited, along with LAUSD East LA Superintendent José P. Huerta to listen to concerns The principal was removed in mid-May.

Antonia Montes with Centro CSO Education Committee spoke in solidarity with those affected at ELAPA. Eloisa Galindo also spoke during the town hall and to Spanish language media about the victory.

Lotter was allowed to stay at his school and the block of teachers who were on standby to resign also stayed. This victory would never have been possible, if students did not unite and fight back. This is a victory for the democratic right of students and teachers to have a public education free of racism, misogyny and transphobia.

Reyna Sanchez who is a mother of one of the affected students said during a Centro CSO meeting, “We need more organizations like Centro CSO who are capable of rallying the community to unite with us at the schools”

If you are also in need of community support, be sure to reach out to Centro CSO at (323) 484-8630 Cent[email protected] or @CentroCSO on various social media platforms.

#LosAngelesCA #EastLACommunity