50 Detroit high school students suspended for having the audacity to demand “An Education”

The following story, regarding a student protest at Detroit’s Frederick Douglass Academy, which resulted in the suspension of 50 students on Thursday, ran yesterday on FOX 2 News. When asked by the Detroit Free Press why he was marching in front of the school, senior Tevin Hill said, “Right now, I’m not going to be as successful as I should be because I haven’t been properly taught.”

[note: You have to fast-forward past a segment on the dropping of sedition charges against the self-proclaimed patriots of the Hutaree Militia, who have been held for the past two years on charges of plotting the murder of Michigan State Police officers.]

Seniors at Detroit’s Frederick Douglass Academy Walk Out in Protest: MyFoxDETROIT.com

The following clip comes from the Detroit Free Press:

About 50 high school students at Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit were suspended Thursday after walking out of classes to protest a host of issues at the all-boys school.

The concerns included a lack of consistent teachers and the removal of the principal.

The boys, dressed in school blazers, neckties and hoodies, chanted, “We want education!” as they marched outside the school.

Parents organized the walkout because they fear for the school’s future. As recently as last month, students spent weeks passing time in the gym, library or cafeteria due to a lack of teachers, parents said.

Worries escalated after district offices moved into part of the building in January, and the school was not listed as an application school for next year. Current students had to apply to attend Douglass.

In addition, the school’s founding principal, Sean Vann, was reassigned when he returned Wednesday after a three-month sick leave.

“They’re failing these young black men,” said Sharise Smith, who has two sons at Douglass.

Smith said her son received an A in geometry during the first semester without taking a final exam.

“It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn’t because he earned an A,” Smith said…

I know that the concept seems to be up for debate right now in the United States, but I was raised to believe that all children in the country are deserving of a quality public education, regardless of the color of their skin, where they happen to live, or how much their parents earn. And it sickens me to see this happening in Detroit, where, in an effort to keep taxes on the wealthy low, school budgets are being slashed, experienced teachers are being forced into early retirement, and classrooms are swelling to hold as many as 60. Republicans argue disingenuously that college lectures have more students in them, and that those students manage to learn just fine, but I think we all know the truth. This isn’t about educating kids. This is about the wholesale warehousing of African American children. And it’s absolutely shameful… To a great extent, we’re just keeping these kids off the street, under the pretense of education, until such time that they can be handed over to the prison industrial complex. And we’re all complicit in this. It’s our tax dollars that are making it possible.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but I think it would be great if high school kids across the state started walking out in solidarity with the young men of the Frederick Douglass Academy, and the young women who we watched last year being forcefully evicted from the Catherine Ferguson Academy. It’s time for this fight to extend beyond the boundaries of Detroit. And the adults clearly aren’t the ones who are going to be leading the charge. If this is ever going to change, we need the kids to take the lead.

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14 Comments

  1. Adam Kolkman
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Mark, thank you for covering this!

  2. Christine M
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Didn’t the DPS get taken over by the Emergency manager for the state last year? Or am I wrong? This is so awful. I want to go down there and March with them. a math teacher missing 60+ days? WHAT???

  3. Jon
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    This school is across the street from a home I own. There can’t be more than 100 students going to what used to be Murray-Wright High School, a building built for several hundred students. It’s pretty quiet and well kept. I see the athletic teams practicing outside all the time. The students have always been respectful when I have seen them. Beyond that, I don’t know much about the school. I was surprised to see this story because from the outside it appears the school is well run.

  4. Demetrius
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    There was a time when free, compulsory public education was an American core value that helped to bolster neighborhoods, communities, and a healthy democracy — and provided social mobility and a route to the middle-class for many poor kids who would otherwise never have such an opportunity.

    However, after 30+ years of successful right-wing propaganda about educational “choice,” and “competition,” — in conjunction with the accelerating class divide that is turning America into a nation of haves and have-nots — the handwriting seems to be on wall for our public schools.

    I routinely talk to parents who worry about whether their younger children are in the “right” pre-school, as well as parents of older children who push their kids to be in the right sports, extracurricular activities, internships, etc., to enable them to get into a “good” college. Yet, at the same time, we have inner-city kids (like those above) for whom society has decided that 60+ kids in a classroom, or teachers that show up only sporadically, are good enough.

    And, regarding Detroit: There isn’t an “Emergency Manager” or “rescue” plan in the world that’s going to be capable of turning it around if they don’t have quality public schools. No schools, no future, etc.

    I guess the most surprising thing about all of this is how quickly we have downwardly-defined what is normal and acceptable … at least when it is somebody else’s kids.

  5. Edward
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Today, Detroit. Tomorrow, the world… or at least the United States.

    Detroit is the canary in the coal mine. And it’s dead.

  6. K2
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Parents from Detroit should drive their kids to Greenhills, where the Governor’s kids went to school, and demand that they be taught.

  7. Posted March 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I went to FDA a couple of times when I was in the district. The boys were always dressed in uniform (shirt and tie), polite, respectful, held the door open, etc. In fact, I liked it so much that I would routinely encourage my special ed kiddos to think about it. I am extremely upset about this turn of events…I am actually in support of single gender education in some situations, and this seemed like a great example.

    You guys just don’t know what some of the teachers are like in the D…there were some very dedicated folks, but there were some people who were just assholes and didn’t give a shit. I could never figure out if they started there and then got so beaten down by the system that they withheld their shit, or if they took the job knowing it would be easy to just coast through. And before anyone starts on the unions, let me say that any teacher who is absent that much could and should be fired, quite easily. The union would not back you up on that; it would just take an administrator to start the ball rolling. But since the principal was gone for three months, well….

    I applaud these young men and I wish I knew the solution for them. This whole thing makes me want to cry.

  8. Edward
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Waiting patiently for EOS to say something racist so that we can begin mobilizing in response.

  9. anonymous
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I think the kids in Ann Arbor’s high schools are probably good, well-intentioned, and, generally speaking, liberal. I can’t see them staging a walk-out, however, in support of the kids in Detroit. It would be incredible if they would, and it would get tons of press if privileged kids began aligning with the poor, demanding that they have access to the same kind of education, but I think it’s just too far removed from their day to day existence. I don’t imagine there’s one kid in the Ann Arbor school system that’s so much as met a student at the Fredrick Douglass Academy. And young people, I’m sorry to say, just aren’t as mature as they once were. They aren’t, generally speaking, risk takers.

  10. Rustbelt Revival
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Last year I was involved in the protests to keep Catherine Ferguson Academy open, which ‘succeeded’ to the extent that CFA is now open as a charter school (did I mention that their gymnasium is now sponsored by the WNBA ‘Detroit Shock’?). http://mispymag.com/2011/05/adventures-in-local-food-6/

    Here we are seeing the same things over again, just at a different school. I should also point out that on the list for fall 2012 closings are Southwestern High (Detroit’s most integrated neighborhood school) & an elementary school in SW that is one of the only offering bilingual spanish-english education. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/08/detroit-school-closings_n_1263165.html

  11. K2
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Revolution is inevitable.

  12. Topher
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    A start would be carefully hiring a whole new set of teachers. Teachers are one of the most influential factors in determining student success. The hard part: Finding those teachers, giving incentives for those teachers to come, and retaining those teachers. When, as a school district, you just don’t have the money, you can’t make this a priority.

  13. John Galt
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    If their parents had really cared about them, they wouldn’t have raised them as young, black men.

  14. Posted April 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    @John Galt…you, sir, are an asshole.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Images of pregnant teenage girls being arrested as they try to keep their schools from closing and boys picketing outside of their schools, demanding an education have become commonplace, as once vibrant neighborhood schools are being forced to close, and those […]

  2. […] If it’s not kids being arrested for protesting the closing of their schools, it’s kids being suspended for having the audacity to demand that they actually have teachers in their cla…. So far, they haven’t experienced a great deal of success, but the movement is growing, and […]

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