Defend TukwilaTeachers - Threatened With Termination for Antiwar Student Walkout
I received an email alert this morning
Here it is
It contains an urgent request for solidarity and encourages taking action by contacting the school administration
PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY!
*Urgent Call for Solidarity*
Defend Teachers Threatened With Termination for Antiwar Student Walkout
On November 16th, over 1,000 students in Washington State walked out to protest the war in Iraq and the presence of military recruiters in public schools. Students at Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington organized and 150 walked out, saying "Money for Schools, Not War."
Foster students rallied at the school flagpole, marched down to the I-5 overpass, and then marched to the Tukwila City Hall. The march and rally were student generated and entirely peaceful.
In reaction the Tukwila School District has done the following:
· Suspended one Social Studies teacher, Brett Rogers, who supported his students in a student generated democratic movement
· Threatened administrative action against five other teachers
· Threatened to discipline students for exercising their First Amendment Right to free speech
When Brett Rogers was asked if he had a personal stake in the war, he said: "It's an illegal war and my cousin is deploying December 4th, and I'm not happy about it."
Please call and email the Principal and Superintendent now!
Tell them they need to:
Reinstate the teacher Brett Rogers who has been put on administrative leave!
Drop the disciplinary hearings against all six teachers who face investigations!
Support the initiative and moral fortitude of students who took a stand against the effects caused by this war to their communities!
Take no disciplinary action against students who participated in the walkout!
We request that you flood the school administration with phone calls and emails. Tell them to halt all disciplinary action against students and the Tukwila Six!
Foster HS Principal George Ilgenfritz: (206) 901-7905
And Interim Superintendent Ethelda Burke: (206) 901-8000, (206) 901-8006,
Please send a copy of protest emails to us at
email@example.com so we can count how many protest emails have been sent in.
If they refuse to answer your call, call Foster HS Assistant Principal Daryl Wright (206) 901-7902 and Foster HS Office Manager Darlene Aguiluz (206) 901-7915.
MORE BACKGROUND INFO:
On Friday, November 16th, more than a 1,000 students in Washington State participated in a nation-wide student walkout to protest the war and military recruiters in schools. This included around 150 students at Foster High School, just south of Seattle. Foster is part of the Tukwila School District, of which 71% of the student body is low-income and eligible for the free and reduced-cost school meals. Since the beginning of the Iraq War, the U.S. military has been assigning ever greater numbers of recruiters to lure young people into signing up for this bloody, costly and illegal quagmire in Iraq, especially in marginalized schools like Foster High School.
Student made signs, walked out, marched to an I-5 overpass and the Tukwila City Hall for a civic and peaceful assembly. Now the principal and school district superintendent have begun a witch-hunt against students and at least six of their teachers and threatened to suspend students who walked out. The students took a bold stand against the war and these teachers have stood up for their students, some of the most disenfranchised in the state, both inside and outside the classroom. Students who walked out are threatened with truancy, and their teachers' jobs are on the line. Now, who will stand up for these students and teachers?
One teacher was put on administrative leave on Monday, November 19th. On Tuesday, November 20th, at least five more were delivered memos notifying them that the Tukwila school district was "investigating reports of possible misconduct relating to you in connection with the student walk-out." These teachers were further notified that they were not to discuss "this matter with any District students or staff" under threat of being terminated. Several of these teachers were completely unconnected with the walkout, but because they have been previously marked out as individuals that speak their minds, they are being lumped into the teacher hunt. "Investigative interviews" are to begin this Tuesday.
· 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.
· And we MUST support their teachers whose only misconduct was making their lesson plans truly relevant to the lives of their students.
If this Principal gets away with this attack on these workers and students, it will embolden more bosses to try to further undermine workers' rights, wages, and benefits, and it will intimidate more people from speaking out against injustice—this is an attack on all students and workers. These teachers are union members of the Tukwila Education Association, and there are measures being taken to try to ensure their defense through this channel, BUT A STRONG COMMUNITY AND NATION-WIDE RESPONSE IS CRITICAL!!!
How can we give thanks to those on the REAL frontlines of freedom in America?
Call and email the school officials above!
And please forward this alert to supportive organizations and individuals!
YET MORE BACKGROUND INFO:
The memo from Interim Superintendent to at least 6 teachers essentially says:
In the next couple days, we will summon you to a meeting because we are "investigating reports of possible misconduct relating to you in connection with the student walk-out." There could be disciplinary consequences pending completion of this investigation.
You are not to discuss "this matter with any District students or staff," or else you could be terminated.
You have the right to have a union representative present with you during the investigative interview in case you feel your rights might be violated.
The administration is clearly trying to isolate the teachers and students from one another to try to divide them and weaken them. They are trying to use the tactic of divide and rule. They are also blatantly violating the teachers' right to free speech.
The teachers have been careful to abide by the Interim Superintendent's directive not to talk with any District students or staff about these matters. But nothing in the Superintendent's letter said teachers could not talk with their union representatives or community supporters. In fact, the letter explicitly says they could talk with the union.
Some teachers who received letters were simply on their lesson planning hour and therefore were not scheduled to teach class when the student walkout happened. These teachers went outside just to see what was going on when the students walked out, but they did not walk out or promote the walkout. So the school has no evidence against some teachers who received the threatening letters.
It appears the administration is targeting these teachers in a political with-hunt because they have spoken their minds in the past over other issues. For example, two of these teachers were banned in the past from sending out school-wide emails because they spoke their minds in school-wide emails that the administrators did not like.
The husband of one of the teachers who received the threatening letters is an Iraq veteran. He went to Foster High School on November 16th and spoke to the students from first-hand experience about the truth of the Iraq War that the government and corporate media are actively hiding from the American people, and he walked out with the students.
As the Iraq veteran left the building, he was confronted by a security guard who identified himself as a police officer/veteran/federal marshall who said: "Don't even start with me, I'm a veteran."
The school administration is disciplining a teacher whose husband is a veteran whose life was put at serious risk in Iraq and who has now turned against the war. This is very disrespectful to the veteran, his family, and the working-class students who are being forced to shoulder the burdens of this war. The school administrators are more concerned with trying to having power over teachers and students than letting the communities who have been hit the hardest by the war speak out against the war and the predatory military recruiters in their schools. This—after the American people voted the Democrats into Congress to end the war, but the Democrats are still making excuses about why they cannot cut off funds for the war and direct those funds toward education and other desperately needed social services. When the leaders of our country will not end this unjust war, then it becomes up to ordinary workers, parents, students, and soldiers to end the war.
The attendance secretary at the school also refused to excuse the absences of students who had permission slips signed by their parents to miss school, which is a flagrant violation of parent and student rights.
Principal George Ilgenfritz also told one student that she didn't know anything about war. (Ironically, the student is from an immigrant Somali family who still has family in the war-torn country of Somalia.)
On the Tukwila School District's website, the following message has been posted by Interim Superintendent Ethelda Burke: "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 Superintendent is hypocritically trying to discourage students from being "self-governing citizens" and standing up for what is right.
We need to match the determination of these courageous teachers, students and the Iraq veteran with all the support we can! Please take a few minutes now to call and email the Principal and Superintendent at the numbers and emails at the top of this email!
YouTube video of Foster High School student rally for peace: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOuLz3kKExI
Report on Washington State Nov. 16th student walkouts against the war: http://yawr.org/nov16/seattle.html
Articles on Youth Against War and Racism student victories against military recruiters in schools:
Please forward this email widely to supportive organizations and individuals who might be able to help!
For more info, contact the Tukwila Teachers and Students Solidarity Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org (253) 573-9252
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