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Tony, a Mexican-American teenager who has recently moved to a small border town, finds a great deal of anti-Mexican feeling in the local high school. Assuming peaceful leadership of the Mexican-American students, Tony unsuccessfully tries to get the principal to promote equality in school affairs. Among the students' aims is the dismissal of a particularly bigoted math teacher and football coach, Mr. Simms. Tensions mount as Janet, a liberal-minded student, defies her wealthy, racist boyfriend, Bruce, and becomes friendly with Tony. Bruce and his gang retaliate by raping Raquel, a popular Mexican-American student, and beating up her boyfriend, Paco. Paco seeks to avenge the assault by kidnaping Bruce's friend Din-Din, tying him to the hood of a car, and leaving him unconscious after a wild drive. [According to some sources, the rape precedes Tony's efforts to organize the Mexican-American students and his friendship with Janet. Bruce and his gang assault student picketers, and Paco reacts by kidnaping Din-Din.] Meanwhile, Tony and Janet have organized a grievance committee composed of both Anglo-American and Mexican-American student leaders; but the principal maintains his refusal to see them. During a committee meeting, Bruce and his gang set fire to the cars parked outside and later cause the deaths of Paco and Raquel by forcing their automobile off the road into a ravine. That night, Bruce chases Tony and Janet to his father's airplane junkyard and threatens to kill them with a giant steel wrecking machine; but they escape and summon the police. A few days later, the entire student body pickets the school on behalf of the Mexican-Americans, thus forcing the principal to give a hearing to student demands.