They might speak different languages, look different or believe in different things.
But legally, there's one thing their teachers cannot be: Communists.
In the Golden State, even being a member of the Communist Party is still a firing offense 59 years after the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy's hearings on communists in the federal government and 23 years after the end of the Cold War.
California Education Code Sec. 44932 outlines the reasons a school employee can be fired.
Firing offenses include immoral or unprofessional conduct, "criminal syndicalism," dishonesty, unsatisfactory performance, evident unfitness for service, a physical or mental condition making the employee unfit to instruct or associate with children, persistent violation of state or local school policies, conviction of a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude, alcoholism or drug abuse - or membership in the Communist Party.
"It's a remnant of the Cold War era and should have long been dropped from the Educational Code," said Juan Lopez, the California chairman for the Communist Party USA.
Communists aren't a registered political party in California, but they're still around, and in good numbers, he said.
"We have more teachers that have joined the Communist Party than any other professions," he said.
"More than anything, we laugh about it," said Luis Rivas, a member of the Southern California Young Communists League. "Historically, in the U.S., there's always been this pretty turbulent tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union."
And that's especially true in the Golden State despite California's contemporary reputation as a bastion of leftist politics.
"There's always been a very deep conservative strain, particularly in politics, in California," said Eileen Wallis, who chairs the history department at Cal Poly Pomona. "You've got to remember, we produced both Nixon and Reagan."
The Golden State actually beat McCarthy to the punch with anti-communist campaigns. State Sen. Jack B. Tunney's California Un-American Activities Committee's hearings predated McCarthy's by more than six years.
The prohibition against Communists isn't the only vestige of the Cold War affecting teachers.
"We are still required as public employees to take a loyalty oath to the state of California," Wallis said. "People in the CSU still occasionally lose their jobs for refusing to sign it."
Those who refuse to sign the oath typically do so for religious reasons, she said.
California's Communists don't advocate a violent overthrow of the government or the American system of governance, Lopez said.
"It's the people of our country that have to make a choice about the direction our country has to take," he said. "We obviously think a socialist USA would be better, but by `socialist,' we mean people, working people, in charge of the country instead of the corporations and the lobbyists."
Lopez, who has been active in Community Party circles for more than four decades, said the law hasn't been used to persecute any teachers, even those open about their political beliefs.
"The Communist Party has been on the forefront of the struggle to fight for public education and fight the cuts that have come down since recent years," he said.
"I know a few anarchist teachers and a few radicals in the school system," said Rivas. "I think most people tend to keep it quiet."
Local legislators aren't sure if teachers should be required to keep even their radical political affiliations a secret.
"There was a time when both Republicans and Democrats saw the Communist Party as a threat," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia. "Ronald Reagan was a Democrat who fought the communists who took over his union."
Donnelly is no fan of the political left, to put it mildly.
"The leadership of the Democratic Party in California have more in common with the Communist Party than they do with the Democratic Party of the JFK era," he said. "I find the idea of confiscating the wealth of hardworking people in order to fund all these socialist schemes of the Democrats who are in charge to be absolutely appalling."
But he opposes rules about who can or cannot be a teacher based on their political beliefs.
"I think we need to get rid of laws and repeal restrictions," he said. "I think if someone wants to think that way, it's a free country."
One of Donnelly's counterparts across the aisle agrees.
"There are many, many things that are still in the law that probably need to be removed, and that would be a monumental task," said Assemblywoman Cheryl R. Brown, D-San Bernardino.
"I think of it in terms of the (segregationist) Jim Crow laws," she said, "and there's still some of that in there. As soon as it's found, it's taken out."
In 2008, an attempt to repeal the ban on Communists in the classroom, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed S.B. 1322.
"Many Californians have fled communist regimes, immigrated to the United States and sought freedom in our nation because of the human rights abuses perpetuated in other parts of the world," Schwarzenegger's written response reads in part.
"It is important particularly for those people that California maintains the protections of current law. Therefore, I see no compelling reason to change the law that maintains our responsibility to ensure that public resources are not used for purposes of overthrowing the U.S. or state government, or for communist activities.
"For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill."
Lopez hopes to see the ban repealed some day.
"It should be repealed. Most definitely," he said. "It's a relic of the past that has no business being in the Education Code or anywhere else, for that matter. It's really a violation of our constitutional rights, civil liberties, and so on."
But his younger comrade isn't optimistic that the two dominant political parties will ever allow what he says they still consider a radical political belief into the classroom.
"Whoever controls the minds of the next generation, basically controls the future," Rivas said.
Staff writer Andrew Edwards contributed to this report.
Reach Beau at via email, call him at 909-483-9376, or find him on Twitter @InlandED.