Increasing, we’re seeing students in Detroit step-up and fight for the educations that they’re entitled to as American citizens. Every few weeks, it seems, there’s a different battle being waged. 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 classrooms. So far, they haven’t experienced a great deal of success, but the movement is growing, and I’m encouraged… The most recent battle is being waged in Southwest Detroit, where it was recently announced by the Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts, that Southwestern High would be shuttered this summer, leaving Western High the only high school in the area. A few hundred students at Western walked out of classes on Wednesday in protest. (See video below.) The following clip comes from The Detroit News:
…An estimated 200 students walked out of school midday Wednesday to protest the upcoming closure of Southwestern High School and demand improved conditions across the district…
“We don’t have the necessary supplies we need to learn,” a student said… “Teachers should motivate us more to learn and succeed… Some only care about their paychecks, and not enough about our education. We want our voices heard in any decision-making process that will affect us as students.”
…After students identified as having walked out Wednesday gathered near the auditorium, school employees handed them suspension slips… Students were not given details about why they were suspended, but the notices implied it was for being part of “a student demonstration.”
(Freddie) Burse, a freshman, said he understands rules might have been broken by walking out without permission, but feels the action taken is extreme.
“You’re basically keeping us out of school for wanting to better our school,” he said…
According to a subsequent report by the Detroit Free Press, over 100 students were given suspensions. (About 100 Western International High students were given four-day suspensions, and 23 Southwestern students received five-day suspensions, according to Steve Wasko, the spokesman for Detroit Public Schools.)
And here’s where it gets interesting… The suspended students are taking the opportunity to create their own school, which better conforms to their vision of what participatory, meaningful education should be. They’re calling their school the Southwest Detroit Freedom School. The following statement, about the launch of the school, was posted to Facebook on Friday by Raychel Gafford, one of the suspended students from Western.
On Friday, April 27, 2012 at 10:55 a.m., we students of Western International High School will be starting our first day of class at Southwest Detroit Freedom School at Clark Park, across from our beloved school which we were suspended from. After over 300 of us staged a student walkout on Wednesday April 25, 2012, over 150 of us were given 5-day suspensions. One of our fellow students, targeted as the “ring-leader” is being threatened with formal charges for helping organize the walkout. We were walking out in solidarity with our fellow students at Southwestern High School to save their school from closing. More importantly, we were also fighting for quality education for us at Western, and at ALL DPS schools. We do not understand why we are being punished with a loss of educational opportunity when that is exactly what we were fighting for. To further demonstrate our commitment to education, we will be attending our own school taught by ourselves and community educators for the duration of our suspension. We are still looking for more teachers and students.
Contact us if you want to help and/or attend.
Twitter: @_OurVoice, #LetOurVoicesBeHeard
Facebook Group: Southwest Detroit Freedom School
EVERYONE IS WELCOME….JOIN US!!!!
Classes will be about:
the history of Southwest Detroit
the Civil Rights Movement
Bboy/BGirl classes (Breakdancing)
the specifics of the Detroit Public School system
the Student Code of Conduct
your civil rights
You will also have a space to do make up work for the days you are suspended.
and much more!
Our Demands to the Detroit Public School System are the following:
1. Don’t close Southwestern High School.
2. Don’t close Maybury Elementary.
3. Remove suspensions for students involved in the walkout.
4. Don’t keep students away from school for walking out to stand up for what they believe.
5. Don’t want suspensions to go on our student records.
6. Don’t press criminal charges against students’ involved in the walkout.
7. Don’t violate students’ rights.
8. Don’t take students’ phones and search through & delete their content.
9. Don’t lay hands on students. No more physical attacks on students by security guards.
10. No more favoritism in who is & is not being targeted for suspension.
11. No more favoritism to certain students, student groups, or sports teams.
12. Honor the DPS Code of Conduct.
13. School Supplies: toilet paper, hand soap, etc.
14. Clean bathrooms, facilities.
15. Stop making students feel like we’re in prison.
16. Higher expectations for students.
17. Better college prep.
18. Stability– teachers who will actually be there for us, who are qualified.
19. Protection of teachers & their union.
20. We want equal opportunity to education.
21. Stop selling away community assets.
22. We’re students, not money signs or criminals. Stop running school like a business or a prison.
23. Give students an equal say in what goes on in all DPS schools. Give students a place in decision-making process. We want a Voice.
24. We need to invest more into our education than what our test scores are gonna be.
25. We need a better education– not students’ fault that money isn’t being used correctly.
26. We need teachers that teach, adequate books and supplies.
27. Remove the Emergency Financial Manager. Give control of schools back to community by reinstating the School Board.
28. Stop closing DPS schools. Go with what we have, stop closing everything down. Fix what we have. Stop closing DPS schools and allowing the chartering of so many schools. Stop turning schools into for profit businesses.
29. WE DEMAND RESPECT!!!!
And here’s that video I mentioned earlier, which features Gafford and others.
As terrible as this is, there is an up-side, as evidenced by the video… We’re creating a whole generation of incredible, highly-motivated, young leaders, who aren’t afraid to stand up and fight back.
And, if you’d like to help these incredible young people, there’s a way to help them. Joe Montgomery, who is active with Occupy Ypsi, has created a Facebook page for those in Ypsilanti who would like to carpool into Detroit to teach courses at the new school. So, if you’ve got a good idea for a course, or if you’d just like to help out, follow that link and sign up.
Also, by way of background, our last discussion on this site about the war on public education that’s being waged in the United States can be found here.
[note: More information about the Southwest Detroit Freedom School, can be found on Facebook.]