Solidarity Needed: US anti-war student suspended in attack on activism

By Angie Jobe Cuba (Foster Student Action) & Ramy Khalil (Youth Against War & Racism)

Overturn antiwar student’s unfair suspension!
Hold the Tukwila School Board accountable!
Keep the teachers hired next semester and next year!

Last Friday, December 7th one of the students at Foster High School in Tukwila, WA involved in Foster Student Action was given a 9 DAY suspension supposedly for “having an Ipod out in class.” However, the real reason she was suspended was because she and other Foster Student Action activists dared to collect petition signatures at lunch period the day before requesting that teachers who allowed the November 16th antiwar student walkout to happen get to keep their jobs.

Who ever heard of someone being suspended for 9 days for having an Ipod out in class? None of the consequences listed in the Foster Student Handbook for having electronics out in class even mentions suspension – only confiscation of the device (see here). And this is the first time this student Bailey Davidson has ever been punished for having electronics at school. So school administrators have blatantly violated their own school rules here.

Many students were using Ipods and cell phone text messaging in the class at the same time as Bailey because the class had a substitute teacher with no lesson plan and students were told simply to do their homework, but many had finished their homework. Yet none of the other students got in trouble. Only this student activist was singled out.

Not only does Vice Principal Wright’s 9-day suspension keep Bailey out of Foster until winter break, but school administrators are also trying to drive her out of the school altogether. They claim that, since she moved residences, she now lives “outside the school district.” However, she recently moved closer to school, not farther from school. She now walks only one mile to school every day. How could this be “outside the school district”? There are around 150 other students who live outside the school district, so why is the administration singling out this one student?

Seventy-one percent of Foster High School students are low-income and qualify for the free and reduced-cost lunch program, and it is a racially diverse school. Thirty percent speak English as a second language. Military recruiters target these students because they are ethnic minorities or come from working-class families with fewer college and career opportunities. Administrators have gotten used to bossing these students and teachers around, but this is the first time these working-class students and teachers have started to speak out against the war’s effects on their communities.

If the administrators get away with this abuse of power, there is nothing to stop them from targeting other students and teachers. This is not just an attack on one student or some teachers, but all of students and all workers — and our Constitutional right to petition local government officials.

Bailey has done better educationally and socially at Foster than at any other school, and she really wants to stay at Foster because Mr. Rogers and a few teachers here have really helped her focus on her studies.

The followinga re teh demands of the campaign:

1. Overturn Bailey’s suspension, and let her stay at Foster!

2. Keep the teachers who allowed or supported students in the walkout hired – not only next semester but also next year!

3. Drop the investigations against teachers now!

4. Remove military recruiters from our school or at least allow us to set up a literature table next to them when they are present!

PLEASE KEEP FLOODING THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS WITH CALLS AND EMAILS AND ASK THEM TO AGREE TO ALL OUR  DEMANDS!

And please forward this appeal widely!

Please send emails to Tukwila School Board members – (replace ‘[at]’ with @ – this is to prevent spamming). A model protest email can be found below:
mfertakis[at]comcast.net
pmaltsberger2000[at]yahoo.com
jasminkakujundzic[at]yahoo.com
wahlsea[at]yahoo.com

Please CC copies to:

Interim Superintendent, Ethelda Burke:
burkee[at]tukwila.wednet.edu

Foster High School Principal, George Ilgenfritz:
ilgenfritzg[at]tukwila.wednetedu

And tukwila.teachers.solidarity[at]hotmail.com so we can count how many protest emails have been sent in.

Thanks for your support,
Angie Jobe Cuba, Foster Student Action, Foster High School
Ramy Khalil, Youth Against War and Racism


Model E-mail of protest

Dear Tukwila School Administrator,

I am writing to demand that the Tukwila School District support the initiative and moral fortitude of students who took a stand against the effects of the Iraq war on their communities. The student march and rally on November 16th were student-generated and entirely peaceful.

With a “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 provision forcing principals to give up the private contact information of young people to military recruiters, students and teachers have the natural right to protest.

With a bloody and illegal war, where the soldiers that are killed and maimed are disproportionately minorities and victims of the “poverty draft,” students and teachers of Tukwila have the natural right to protest.

With more than $500 billion dollars and the lives of more than a million Iraqis having been utterly wasted on a failed war, with schools in marginalized areas falling apart, we should all be protesting with the slogan: “Money for Schools — Not For War!”

With 75% of the American people polling against the war according to the latest Washington Post poll, and a Democratic Congress still making excuses for why it can’t cut off funding to bring the troops home, we must support the young people who speak out against their future being bombed away.

These teachers only misconduct was making their lesson plans truly relevant to the lives of their students.

On the Tukwila School District’s website, the Interim Superintendent posted the following message:

“We believe in the historic mission of public education within our democracy… Our schools are expected to encourage and prepare students to be productive citizens. We believe the challenge is to transform every child – to give every student a chance to become an autonomous, thinking person and a self-governing citizen. We are all here to work together to provide the best education for the most prized commodity of our fine city – the students of the Tukwila School District.”

Yet when the students participate in an act of peaceful civil disobedience in the best traditions of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement who challenged unjust segregation laws, now the school district is hypocritically trying to discourage students from being “self-governing citizens” and standing up for what is right?

You should immediately:

1.  Keep the teachers who allowed or supported the student walkout hired not only next semester but next year!

2.  Overturn Bailey Davidson’s suspension! Let her stay at Foster High School!

3.  Drop the investigations against teachers now!
4.   Remove military recruiters from Foster High School or at least allow students to set up a literature table next to them when they are present!

Please write me back saying that upon further investigation you realize that there is no need for disciplinary action against these students or teachers.

Sincerely,

Name
Organizational Affiliations (if any) 


News Reports & Background:

Great Free Speech Radio News report:
http://www.fsrn.org/content/public-opinion-favors-teachers-wa-disciplined-alleged-involvement-student-anti-war-walk-out

NYC Indymedia:
http://www.indypendent.org/2007/12/08/student-antiwar-walkouts-spark-small-town-backlash/

KIRO 7:
http://www.kirotv.com/education/14714796/detail.html
(Click where it says “video”)

NorthWest Cable News:
http://www.nwcn.com/video/news-index.html?nvid=196453

Seattle Times: “Protesting teacher back at Tukwila school” November 29th
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004041566_tukwila29m.html

Student-made Walkout Film:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGSDzDF7xoY

Great report on antiwar student walkouts:
http://yawr.org/nov16/seattle.html

Articles on Youth Against War and Racism student victories against military recruiters in schools:
http://yawr.org/victory/victory.htm#tacoma
http://yawr.org/victory/victory.htm#kennedy
http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article13.php?id=611

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Nov. 16th Walkout Article:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/340003_peace17.html

For more information go to www.socialistslternative.org or e-mail Foster Student Action at foster.action[at]gmail.com.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.