Home » Mt. Diablo High School To Grant Retroactive Diplomas To Japanese American Students Incarcerated During WWII

Mt. Diablo High School To Grant Retroactive Diplomas To Japanese American Students Incarcerated During WWII


Marking the 80th anniversary of the year President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Japanese Americans into War Relocation Centers during World War II, Mt. Diablo High School will grant retroactive diplomas to students forced to leave the school in 1942 during its Class of 2022 graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 24 at the Concord Pavilion.

This historic effort came about due to the tireless work of Class of 1958 alumna Kimiyo Tahira Dowell and Ethnic Studies teacher Laura Valdez and her students, who lobbied the Mt. Diablo Unified School Board to confer the diplomas to former students or their families, based on a California law passed in 2003 that allowed school districts to retroactively grant diplomas to students who had not received them due to their incarceration during World War II, among other provisions. Dowell was herself incarcerated with her parents as a toddler.

The School Board agreed to revise its policies on March 23, 2022, paving the way for the presentation as part of Mt. Diablo High School’s graduation ceremony this month. Dowell, Valdez and her students pored over the school’s 1942 yearbook and identified approximately 40 students who were sent to War Relocation Centers with their families.

Many of the former students are now deceased and those who are still alive are in their 90s, making it difficult for them to attend the ceremony in person. However, the school expects up to two dozen family members of the former students to attend and accept the retroactive diplomas on behalf of their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Valdez said some of these relatives were close to tears when she told them about the school’s efforts on the phone. Some of their relatives, she said, have never spoken of the incarceration because it was so painful.


Valdez said she has incorporated the research for this effort into her ethnic studies class as part of students’ education about the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans allegedly suspected of being disloyal to the United States. Her students have watched propaganda about Roosevelt’s order that showed Japanese American families being loaded onto buses with their belongings and have read news accounts of their ordeals, she said.

The families will be seated in a special section of the pavilion and will be given the diplomas when they arrive. Dowell will announce the names of the former students immediately before the Class of 2022 diplomas are distributed.  The school’s 2022 graduating class is expected to include these students as honorary members of its class.  A small “tailgate” style reception for the families will be held in the parking lot after the graduation, which is expected to conclude by 8:30 p.m.

The press is invited to attend the graduation and tailgate event. Those interested may also visit Valdez’ ethnic studies class, view the 1942 yearbook and speak to students about the project. Dowell is also available for interviews. It may be possible to interview some of the families at the graduation. Members of the press are asked to please let us know ahead of time if you plan to attend the graduation.


Vindex May 16, 2022 - 2:05 PM - 2:05 PM

While this is the RIGHT thing to do…the internment camps for Japanese Americans are a blight on our history.. the Ethnic Studies teacher sounds unhinged.

Mom of the Horde May 16, 2022 - 2:20 PM - 2:20 PM

Unhinged? It was actual propaganda, fueled by a couple of decades of racists trying to get Japanese-Americans out of California.

Old Timer May 16, 2022 - 2:11 PM - 2:11 PM

Really.We have given back so much for a war we didn’t even start.

babytruck May 16, 2022 - 7:48 PM - 7:48 PM

Homes of the Japanese Americans were taken from them, even if they owned the land and the house on it. Given back? If the person has died, the family received nothing. If so, it was $10,000. Yet it was still okay that these same falsely accused Japanese were allowed to fight for the US in war after everything they had was stripped from them.

Anonymous May 16, 2022 - 2:17 PM - 2:17 PM

They weren’t incarcerated, they were interned. Incarceration implies they did something wrong.

And I’m not sure I understand what “allegedly suspected” means. Were they suspected of being disloyal or not? The suspected disloyalty was just a pretext, of course.

Of course, the Niihau incident didn’t help.

KT May 16, 2022 - 2:22 PM - 2:22 PM

Being of Japanese descent, this is nice. BUT Mr Valdez should also include the Italians and Germans who were also sent to internment camps during the war. Mr Valdez needs to study up on his ethic studies and read about all the internment camps.

S May 16, 2022 - 2:37 PM - 2:37 PM

looks like you didn’t read the article very well……………..

Darwin May 16, 2022 - 2:39 PM - 2:39 PM

Valdez also left out about forced GI labor during WW2 and the horrible treatment Americans received (malnutrition and beating).

To Do List May 16, 2022 - 3:37 PM - 3:37 PM

I can’t help believing this is just part of the progressive story line to keep all wounds open and stoke division. Does this solve anything or help anybody really? I don’t see it. I had a teacher from Japan. He lived near Hiroshima as a child was sick one day and did not go to school. That saved him from the atomic bomb. Yet, he moved to the US and was here for decades teaching. He did not seem to harbor hatred, so why is this person trying to appropriate a victimization they were too young to experience. Leftist politics, the gift of learned victimization and learned hatred.

Martinezmike May 16, 2022 - 4:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Glad I read the headline twice. It would be so wrong to give them radioactive diplomas.

Cellophane May 16, 2022 - 5:21 PM - 5:21 PM

Why did they wait 80 years?

Most of those poor people are dead now.

I don’t know why this is happening now, but I believe it is too little, far too late.

No Excuses May 17, 2022 - 11:26 AM - 11:26 AM

Because NOW is the time of “every fire must be stoked!” Cellophane. If anything can be brought to the fore and used against the Patriots. It must be NOW,

I understand holding on to old feelings and wondering what would ease the hurt. Now a “toddler” is in her 80’s and wants to make it all feel better. Ummmm, OK.

But the “teacher” whose students may be unable to read well, with understanding, or ever even heard about the hypotenuse of a triangle…. NOW is the time! They must be educated (mind-twisted) in the back-story of how awful their country reacted to being attacked—while at that very moment, a Japanese Minister and his contingent were in DC soft-stroking the politicians as a distraction.

I could continue~~~ 😉

aclaycordian May 16, 2022 - 5:51 PM - 5:51 PM

It is so wonderful that Mt Diablo High School has solved all the important problems of today at their facility, that they’re working to solve historic wrongs.

As a taxpayer, I, for one, commend the school for no longer sustaining, supporting and harboring Norteno -or any other criminal street- gang members, solving all crime on and about campus, and having all students graduate with earned -not progressive- diplomas based on sound curriculum which prepares them for their futures.

Three cheers for Mt Diablo HS!

Anonymous May 17, 2022 - 11:08 AM - 11:08 AM

Mt Diablo HS is the testbed for all the socialist and activist BS Mt Diablo USD really wants in place. They are following the model that began in Los Angeles. They start their activism movement at the most troubled schools populated by illegal immigrants. They know the illegals will keep quiet and it’s a good place to push the racism and victimization lie. As the illegal immigrant population expands, so does the activism. At some point, the entire district is affected by the activism that began in the illegal alien area.

Juan May 16, 2022 - 6:34 PM - 6:34 PM

I hope when they are prostrating themselves, they remember why it was done. And the fact that Italians, Germans and even the Irish were also Interned.

Pacman May 16, 2022 - 6:48 PM - 6:48 PM

Woke grandstanding knows no bounds.

“Dowell is also available for interviews” speaks volumes.

Badge1104 May 16, 2022 - 7:25 PM - 7:25 PM

Most people don’t know it but German-Americans were interned also.. but not in as greater numbers. Yes it seems unfair now. But I can see our woke culture now trying to do that to someone else, like conservatives or even Christians… If they get more woke.

Darwin May 16, 2022 - 8:57 PM - 8:57 PM

@ Badge 1104
We learn history so it does not repeat itself. However, the woke want to live in the past rather than learn from it. It’s an uncertain time when people argue against facts because it hurts their feeling. I still see BLM signs up with all the information debunking their false narrative. Crazy times

Anonymous May 17, 2022 - 11:09 AM - 11:09 AM

No one cares about the German-Americans because they skin is the wrong color.

Did I Say That Out Loud May 16, 2022 - 8:45 PM - 8:45 PM

It would be even more wonderful to recognize ALL those who were affected by orders from FDR during the war. I found a great book that reveals the treatment that Italians received during this time : UNA STORIA SEGRETA The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II. HeyDay Books Berkeley California.

FFS May 16, 2022 - 9:25 PM - 9:25 PM

Can we all just agree that internment camps are bad? And high school kids not getting diplomas because they were wrongfully sent to internment camps is also bad? I fail to see how this is divisive, and I’m distress at all these negative responses to such a positive act. Both the Japanese internment camps, and other internment camps can both be wrong, and trying to make right of this particular situation doesn’t have to amend the wrongs of all people sent to internment camps. But it may mean a lot to the 40 students and their families, and isn’t that a wonderful thing? And yeah, it should have been addressed as an issue years ago, but thank goodness Ms Valdez took it upon herself to recognize that no one else had done it up to this point, and tried to get the school on the right side of history. Bringing attention to something that was wrong, and trying to amend it isn’t opening old wounds, it’s attempting to heal them. Well done Ms Valdez, this is a worthy endeavor.

Seginus May 17, 2022 - 10:24 AM - 10:24 AM

Amen! I too appreciate that steps, small as they are, are being made to acknowledge and amend what was taken from children and their family, whose only crime was their ancestry. Thrown in concentration–, I mean “internment” camps out in the high deserts in inhumane conditions on the basis of perceived disloyalty even as they fought and fought hard for with the 442nd in Europe. The fact that it has taken this long for something as small as this to be done for them says too much about this country and how far it is from its ideals. As does the sheer volume of whataboutism on display, just incredible.

No Excuses May 17, 2022 - 10:15 PM - 10:15 PM

Seginus, This is not being done “for them.” 90% or more are dead and gone. When you get past the handful of those still living, you find: This is being done to turn YOU against America.

The Mean, Terrible, Overlords, who made this country what it is. Who made this country the goal of millions of hopeful immigrants.

Do not let revisionist history be the only history you learn.

Paul May 16, 2022 - 9:36 PM - 9:36 PM

Ethnic studies is just a CRT.

Schmee May 17, 2022 - 8:08 AM - 8:08 AM

When there are so many more important issues in todays world I don’t understand the type of person who even thinks about this kind of stuff. For someone born in the 80s this just seems like symbolic waste of time. Give their grandkids free college if you want to make a difference.

Alex V. May 17, 2022 - 8:41 AM - 8:41 AM

It’s so fun we get to be part of a historic graduation! It’s never too late to make a difference. This graduation will stick with me for the rest of my life!! Thank you Ms Valdez for being an awesome teacher!! 😁

Reasonable May 17, 2022 - 8:43 AM - 8:43 AM

There are endless numbers of people that have been screwed over by the government over the history of the US. As years go by, eventually nearly all humans will be lost to time and the ever-mounting amounts of trivial data. Now that I’m on the backside of life I try to let most stuff pass on by realizing that wasting too much time on all of this is just not worth it.

Ethnic Studies Student May 17, 2022 - 9:05 AM - 9:05 AM

This is a very honorable thing to do! For those who have sadly passed and will not be attending our graduation as much as it’s theirs too – this will forever bring honor to their history and to their families. Im so happy I get to be part of this graduation too!

Anonymous May 17, 2022 - 11:22 AM - 11:22 AM

It’s a nice thing the school is doing, but a high school diploma does not bring honor to anyone. It’s what you do with your life and the person you become that brings honor.

Here’s an example of real honor. Many of the young Japanese-American men who were interned volunteered to join the Army and fight the Germans. They were often viewed as expendable by the military higher-ups and fought in the bloodiest battles of World War II. They fought with distinction and great honor. Many are still in Europe today.

The reason why they did this is because even though their own country didn’t consider them Americans, they considered themselves Americans and felt it was their duty to defend America. No matter what America threw at them, they were going to protect America from her enemies. Even then the govt. didn’t send them to fight the Japanese because the govt. didn’t trust them.

They made a great sacrifice. I can’t say if I were in their place that I would do the same.

I consider the Japanese probably the most loyal immigrant group in our history and their actions prove it.

whome May 17, 2022 - 10:02 AM - 10:02 AM

Lets not leave out the native Americans. They had they’re land stolen them…

Lets not leave out the American-Africans. Forced labor…

On, and on and on…

How do we research each individual family lineage? Just that will take lots of and much $$$

And then it will go their children, or grand children. Who were not impacted by it…

FPN May 17, 2022 - 10:27 AM - 10:27 AM

Are we talking about Bob Valdez?

S May 17, 2022 - 11:11 AM - 11:11 AM

one of my favorite Lancaster roles…

Thanks for easing the tension here with some levity.

S May 21, 2022 - 6:56 AM - 6:56 AM


Watched it again last night…..

Tita May 17, 2022 - 10:53 AM - 10:53 AM

I think they have lost their minds at tax payers expense…What about the AMERICANS that were drafted? And the Germans were here as Prisoners of war.

The Fearless Spectator May 17, 2022 - 11:31 AM - 11:31 AM

This is certainly a nice gesture, and anything that attempts to soften the horrors of war is positive. It’s good for young people to know about this part of history.

In the mid-1980’s I attended a symposium with featured speakers WWII flying Aces Jimmy Doolittle, Adolph Galland, and Englishman Johnnie Johnson. They greeted each other warmly. After each spoke about the war they did a joint Q & A. They were laughing, joking, and referring to each other by nick names.
They had clearly reconciled the war, their part in it, and had become friends.

SAM May 17, 2022 - 4:43 PM - 4:43 PM

BS. We would do it again if we went to war with Mexico. You people have the mind pathogen. What a useless gesture that helps nobody. All you kids out there thinking this is a special thing make me sick. You are still wet behind the ears and don’t have a clue what’s going on. Brainwashed morons virtue signaling to other brainwashed morons..As far as I’m concerned, all your diplomas are worthless and you better toughen up for the real world. All you soft boys have made hard times. What’s a useless diploma gonna do for anyone? I would be surprised if anyone from that generation will even show up for this little insult to injury.

Glen223 May 18, 2022 - 8:17 AM - 8:17 AM

Sam +1

Quandale dingle May 17, 2022 - 6:56 PM - 6:56 PM

I Quandale dingle approve of this message.

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