Wednesday, March 7, 2012

SHAME ON THE GROWN-UPS: Prince George's Public Schools Stamp Out Student Dissent on Budget Cuts

UPDATE: Thanks to the Internet-based publicity surrounding Prince George's school officials' ("PGCPS") attempts to silence student dissent over budget cuts, politicos are now weighing in on the matter. Not surprisingly, one incumbent School Board member is defending the Iron Fist tactics of PGCPS officials. The Real Prince George's County blog prints several responses: 
  1. District 7 School Board incumbent Henry Armwood says the crackdown on student protesters is about their safety (uh huh), 
  2. District 7 challenger Carletta Fellows stands with the students for trying to highlight "horrendous conditions," 
  3. District 4 challenger Micah Watson raises questions about whether PGCPS officials should be allowed to invade student privacy by monitoring their Twitter accounts for political dissent, and 
  4. PGCPS Student Board member Faith Jackson says she is supposed to stay silent, but risks getting in trouble in order to stand by the students who elected her.

Numerous blogs and email lists are lighting up in anger over reports that Prince George's County Public School ("PGCPS") officials are using Iron Fist tactics to silence student protestors. Hat tip to AFL-CIO Union City email list and the Real Prince George's County blog for flagging the article below. It comes to us from the website for The Black Star Project. Their website states their mission as follows:
Founded in 1996 by Phillip Jackson, The Black Star Project is committed to improving the quality of life in Black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap
The Black Star blog reported the following news about PGCPS officials Iron Fist tactics:
Thursday, March 1st was a National Student Day of Action in which students around the country organized demonstrations protesting education budget cuts, educational inequality, and advocating for quality and affordable education for all. Students at Northwestern High School in Prince George’s County Maryland planned a walkout and rally as part of the National Student Day of Action.

Over 300 students planned to walk out to protest unsanitary conditions in their school, enormous class sizes, cuts to the ESOL program, and denial of promised pay raises for their teachers. The students also were asking for more teacher/parent/student input in the curriculum and demanding an apology for a group of Filipino teachers who were fired and deported after not having their work visas renewed.

The Administration at Northwestern discovered the walkout plan early in the day by trolling Twitter and put the school on lockdown. Police blocked the doors and canine units waited in the school’s parking lot. They held student leaders in the Principal’s office all day, threatened them with expulsion, and at the end of the day suspended four students for 5 days requiring that when they return their parents must accompany them to classes all day. 

Northwestern is a high school where a majority of the students are Black and Latino. The student organizers’ mission was to walk out for a better school and a better education. Instead the Administration violated their civil liberties, squashed these students’ free speech, and punished them for wanting to improve the school environment for themselves and their teachers. Instead of having a dialogue with students, the Administration at this school chose to make an example of several students and punish them harshly knowing this could affect these students ability to get into college.

We ask you to stand in solidarity with the students at Northwestern. We cannot let school officials succeed in punishing them for wanting changes to their school and quality education. Support these students by contacting the following school officials and demanding that their suspensions be revoked and removed from their permanent record:

Mr. Edgar Batenga

William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.

Amber Waller
Board of Education Member, District 3

Jane Spence
Instructional Director of High School Performance

Northwestern Vice Principals:
Mr. Douglass Jones, x-2318
Ms. Patricia Cox, X-2237
Mr. Robert Pollard, X-2280
Ms. Jennifer Love, x2280
Mr. Arrington, x2265

CONCLUSION: Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But if the allegations above are true, I think the "grownups" here should be ashamed of themselves. If anything, there is not enough values-based, subversive education in the United States (ie: teaching of critical thinking skills).

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