US: Victory for Anti-war teachers & students

(After a very succesful anti-war walkout some students and teachers were victimised. These attacks have now been defeated. See previous articles for background info.)

The Tukwila School District administrators finally announced the results of their disciplinary investigations against the Tukwila six teachers who allowed or supported the Nov. 16th walkout of 125 students against the Iraq war and military recruitment at Foster High School. They gave a Letter of Reprimand to teacher Brett Rogers and a Directive Letter to teacher Kjell Rowe.

Brett Rogers was given a Letter of Reprimand because he walked out of classes with his students to protest the war and military recruitment of schools. Although he thought he might lose his job, he felt it was necessary to take a stand against the U.S. corporate war for oil, money and power that has cost the lives of an estimated 1 million Iraqis, 3800 U.S. soldiers and over $500 billion, particularly because his own brother was about to be shipped off to Iraq.

Kjell Rowe was given a Directive Letter that he should not have given students a ride to the student rally. Apparently, there is a policy that no teachers are allowed to give students a ride anywhere without written permission from the principal. However, most students and staff have never heard of this rule, and if it is a rule, this is probably one of the first times it’s ever been applied.

But the fact that no teachers were fired is a tremendous VICTORY for the Foster teachers, students, and for all of us! The administration wanted to send students and teachers the message that if you speak out against school or local government leaders (who are doing nothing to stop the war or military recruitment in schools), somebody will get hurt. The Foster principal initiated a political witch-hunt against teachers, but a powerful groundswell of support from students and community members broke his effort. These disciplinary letters are bad, but they are a slap on the wrist compared to the danger these teachers faced of losing their jobs, income, and security!

This is proof that there is power when ordinary people get organized, and that we can make a difference in challenging this unjust war in Iraq and military recruitment in schools!!!

Thanks to ALL who demonstrated their solidarity by calling, emailing, and protesting the Tukwila School District!!!

BUT…the campaign is not done.

The letters given to Mr. Rogers and Ms. Rowe will go in their permanent files, unless the teachers’ challenges against the disciplinary letters are accepted. We must also remember that two of the six teachers are in their probationary period, meaning that it is still somewhat in doubt whether the school district will rehire them next semester and next year. Solidarity has made this impossible so far, but please STAY TUNED to make sure that the Tukwila Six stay in the classroom next semester and next year.

Also, the school district suspended student activist Bailey Davidson on the spurious grounds that she had an Ipod out in a substitute-led class that had no lesson plan. Although other students had Ipods out, Assistant Principal Darrel Wright picked out Bailey to suspend for nine days for questioning why she was being singled out. She was clearly targeted because she was helping Foster Student Action collect approximately 200 student signatures the day before to defend their teachers’ jobs. Furthermore, when students tried to meet after school to peacefully assemble and organize, Principal Ilgenfritz had the meeting broken up by EIGHT POLICEMEN! Your continued solidarity can ensure that Foster students can exercise their freedom of expression!

Lessons of the Tukwila Six campaign

  1. Working-class students are capable of organizing resistance to military recruiters and the war
  2. A teacher responsible accompanied his students in the walkout and, although the administration clearly aimed to fire him, solidarity from students and the community clearly prevented this
  3. School administrations may over-react to student and teachers’ participation in civil disobedience, which can turn political expression into a fight for free speech
  4. If those in authority instigate a political witch-hunt, challenging it through the authorities’ appeals process will probably not be enough. A political fight-back may be necessary
  5. By fighting back as broadly as possible and soliciting mainstream and alternative media, the struggle can inform and inspire people across the country
  6. Teachers (and other workers who are union members) should push their leadership to take public stands on issues that affect us as workers

Next Steps
Students are filing an official appeal to have Bailey’s suspension overturned or at least erased from her record. Students are also preparing to set up information tables and collect petition signatures right next to military recruiters whenever they show up to organize students and staff behind their goal of making schools off-limits to military recruiters. This will attract more students to get involved in Foster Student Action, and they will maintain a consistent presence in the school which will make it harder for administrators not to rehire the teachers next semester or next year.
We need to build on this inspiring victory and organize more student walkouts, protests, and teach-ins against the war and organize more students to set up antiwar clubs in their school to make their schools no-go zones for military recruiters.

If you want to:

  • Help Foster Student Action
  • Organize a Youth Against War and Racism group in your school to counter military recruiters or drive them out of your school
  • Arrange for a Youth Against War and Racism speaker to come to your school to do an antiwar teach-in
  • Help the Tukwila Teachers and Students Solidarity Committee
  • Mobilize people to the next large antiwar protest on the 5th Anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, or
  • Find out more about and get involved with Socialist Alternative

then please go to our various groups’ websites and contact us!


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