Students March, Sit-In for Fired Workers

More than 200 highschool students wearing all black walked out of classes Monday to protest the layoff of 388 school employees last week. Chanting “No counselors, no college!” students met at McKinley Technology High School and marched towards schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s office. “We are here because our education in on the line,” said one student. “We have no teachers. All our counselors have been laid off. I am a senior, I want to graduate, I want to go to college, I want to have a future but how can I do that without a school counselor.rnrnAt McKinley officers from the Metropolitan Police Department entered classrooms at around 2:45pm Friday to escort the teachers out of the classroom, “I was in class, the police came in, told my teacher to leave the classroom and escorted her to her car. We knew the layoffs were coming but we didn’t know who or when it would happen. It was very distressing,” explained Tamika DeBose, a student at McKinley Tech. As McKinley students gathered peacefully in the school courtyard on Friday, police attempted to disperse them, pepper spraying DeBose directly in the face. Another senior, Teyvon Cooke, began to voice her opposition to the layoffs when the police allegedly grabbed her neck, threw her on the ground, injuring her face and then arrested her, falsely accusing her assaulting a police officer. “Rhee mismanaged this situation badly,” said Kelvin Sherman, a 12th grader who filmed the incident and was expelled today after he shared the footage to with news stations. “At the end of the day it’s students who suffer.” rnrnRhee argues that the layoffs are the result of a shortfall created when the D.C. Council made additional cuts to the fiscal 2010 budget in August but many disagree, “The public schools budget budget is practically equal to lasts years. Fenty and Rhee manufactured the budget crisis by hiring too many employees as a way to fire teniered teachers through the reduction in force process, circumventing the union” explained Michelle Baskin, a former teacher with DCPS. “This is about racism, restribution and retaliation,” said Rhonda Robinson, a former McKinely counselor who had worker at the school for 5 years. “When I asked to see what ranking system they had supposedly used to rif me they could show nothing.”rnrnTeyvon and her mother were out at the rally Monday, “I am here supporting Teyvon and all the kids ,” said Monique Cooke. Labor, community and faith leaders joined the rally in solidarity with the students. “An attempt on you is an attempt on every single member of the Metropolitan Washington Council,” said Rick Powell, Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO. “If there is no struggle, there will be no progress. It happened in Soweto, it’s happening in DC. Keep walking brothers and sisters.”rnrn“This is a teaching moment for all of us,” added Revered Hagler of Plymouth UCC. “Your spirit, belief that you can make a difference has moved some of us who were too tired to act, to stand up. United, people cannot be defeated. We shall not be moved.”rnChanting “Sitting for out teachers, we shall not be moved” students sat down on the steps of 825 North Capitol and demanded that Rhee come down and meet with them. Rhee’s staff said the was out of town. “You are the ed reform recipients,” added Thomas. “If Chancellor Rhee, that says something about the status of ed reform. They have systematically ignored the Local Schools Restructuring Teams. They have laid off all these laid off all these teachers to make room for the people they are hiring”rnrnStudents then led the crowd in a moment of silence for the teachers and support staff before standing up and marching to the City Council building. Councilmember Thomas welcomed the students on the steps of the City Council, “This is your building, your place. We are proud of you, you are the best, the brightests. Your voices are going to be heard.” Thomas was joined by Councilmembers Kwame Brown and Yvette Alexander.rnChanting “we voted you in, we’ll vote you out” students then marched into the Council building where Thomas had arranged an impromptu roundtable hearing. Councilmembers Grey, Thomas, Alexander, Kwame Brown, Barry and Cheh voiced their support for the students. “The Mayor is scapegoating the city Council, we are appalled by his actions.” said Yvette Alexander. “You need to continue to organize and confront the Mayor.”rnrn“Our demands will not end with a conversation,” said Ikechukwu Umez-Eronin to a thunderous applause “We are not here to talk. We are here because we want the best possible chance to succeed. We want an end to the disruption these layoffs have caused for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. We want our teachers reinstated. Due process has been violated. There were no cuts in the udget so why are you firing my teachers.Fenty and Rhee have undermined the check and balances. That is unacceptable in the U.S.”rnrnThomas Jr. said he would introduce a resolution Tuesday supporting the student protesters. The Washington Teacher’s Union, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and Teamsters will be organizing a mass rally to save public education on Thursday October 8th, 4:30pm at Freedom Plaza, 14th and Pennsylvania NW. To get involved in the campaign to Take Back DC contact Rcastel@dclabor.org.rnrn

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