ONTD Political

Detroit Students Suspended After Protest

1:08 am - 04/09/2012
Detroit High School Protest: Students Suspended After Demanding 'An Education'

About 50 students were suspended Thursday from the all-boys Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit, Mich. for walking out of classes in protest, demanding "an education."

Among their complaints: a lack of consistent teachers, the reassignment of the school principal, educators who abuse sick time and a shortage of textbooks.

"We've been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated," senior Tevin Hill told the Detroit Free Press. "They didn't listen to us when we complained to the administration. They didn't listen to the parents when they complained to the administration, so I guess this is the only way to get things solved."

One math teacher, parent Sharise Smith tells WJBK-TV, has been absent for more than 68 days.

The students marched outside the school and chanted,

"We want... education! When do we want it? Now!"

Students and parents became increasingly alarmed when Frederick Douglass was no longer listed as an application school in the district -- current students had to apply to attend. Smith told the Free Press that her son was given an A in geometry without taking a final exam.

"It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn't because he earned an A," she said.

The Frederick Douglass boys are just some of many students in a city that proved to be the worst-performing urban school area among 21 surveyed across the country. Despite its national rank, Detroit's overall performance increased on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2009 branded Detroit "ground zero" for education reform, but changed his tone to a more optimistic one last year. Still, the district is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and faces dwindling enrollment -- the first day of academic year 2011-2012 saw a 55 percent attendance rate.

Detroit Public Schools spokesperson Steve Wasko noted that Frederick Douglass teachers who abuse sick time "will be reprimanded," and the district aims to keep the school open while adding new courses like debate and engineering.

The 17-year-old Hill told The Detroit News that so many teachers have been simultaneously absent from school that dozens of students had been forced to gather in the gym or other common school areas. Students also went for long periods without homework, and Hill said he struggled on a recent placement exam at Bowling Green State University, where he's been accepted to attend next year.

"I literally couldn't answer a question on there," Hill said. "Right now, I'm not going to be as successful as I should be because I haven't been properly taught."

bunnika 9th-Apr-2012 05:26 am (UTC)
This stuff makes me so sad. I had no idea how bad schools are until I became a substitute. It really does feel like the administration just doesn't care. I spent a day subbing "ED" (classes for the "emotionally disturbed," as the school calls them) and most of the students were years into failing. There was a 20-year-old sophomore, and when I asked one of the other ED teachers what the school does to get the kids to learn and move forward (as what I witnessed was not even an attempt to teach, even though it's a 1:1 or 1:2 teacher:student ratio in ED at all times for safety). She just sighed and said, "They sit here until they're 21, then they're not allowed to attend anymore." My partner's a long-term sub, who took over math classes from a different long-term sub with no math background. All of the kids are failing miserably because they went months without a qualified teacher, and the school just wants to push them through, like that's actually going to fucking help them in the long run.

Even as a sub, I find it easy to pick out those kids who really want to learn amidst the students who have just sort of resigned themselves to the shitty lot the school's given them. It's heartbreaking to see a kid hungry for knowledge, not getting fed. And it's heartbreaking to see kids who just don't care, because the system has told them in no uncertain terms that they're just not important enough to deserve a proper education.

Gah. Public schools in this country are so damn fucked up. It's really horrible.

Edited at 2012-04-09 05:27 am (UTC)
tei_0 9th-Apr-2012 11:57 am (UTC)
I'm impressed that your school board even has an "ED" class. Clearly it's going about it in the wrong way, but at least it's trying... kind of? I had a dear friend in high school who was forced to drop out (as in, they literally banned her from the premises) because the school was completely unwilling to put in the effort to provide support to kids with mental illnesses.
redstar826 9th-Apr-2012 01:49 pm (UTC)
I've been subbing too, and I did a day in an ED class recently, and I thought it was run pretty well. The curriculum was mostly computer based, and was tailored to each student's needs. I think having each student at their own work station doing their own work made it easier for them to focus rather than having them as a group listening to a teacher (these kids had some pretty severe attention issues), and there were several adults in the room to help them if they got stuck. Just from the day I was in there, it seemed like they were doing high school level work and it seemed like they were learning.

BUT, this was also in a pretty well off district which has the money to provide these kids with what they need. All three districts I've done thus far (in my area, subs work through an agency and can take jobs in multiple school districts) have been suburban districts with very nice buildings and a lot of available supplies and the like. I think they are pretty decently funded
homasse 9th-Apr-2012 05:36 am (UTC)
This crap is why I hate the fools yelling, "Bootstraps!" and "Nobody gave me a hand-out! Nobody ever helped me!" They have no idea how much basic shit has just been handed to them.
youdontknowher 9th-Apr-2012 05:44 am (UTC)
i did a quick skim of the comments as i was making the post, and there was one gem that basically said, "pfft, these kids could have just gotten their educations on the internet for free!" like, rly betch r u bein srs??
vexed_artist 9th-Apr-2012 06:06 am (UTC)
Well, you can learn an awful lot through the Internet and libraries (I learned a lot more from library books and websites than I did from most school classes, myself.) But really, there's absolutely nothing better and more effective than an instructor to help you along - books and websites can only do so much, and they certainly can't answer questions for you if you're having trouble understanding the content (and the sites where you can interact with tutors and instructors sure as hell aren't free for everyone to use :p)

TL;DR: They're 1/3rd right, but 2/3rds wrong. Yes, you can learn a lot online for free, but the best sites aren't free, and nothing can replace a teacher who can help you understand things you don't get.
emofordino 9th-Apr-2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
SERIOUSLY. especially those people who went to schools in wealthier areas that have never had to worry about whether or not bond levies would pass so the school would have enough money to provide the bare minimum for their students. if you compared my old high school to a high school 45 minutes away that a friend of mine from college attended, the difference in classes offered, teachers, extracurriculurs, etc is ASTOUNDING. the kids graduating from those schools already have a leg-up on kids in poorer areas that don't perform as well on proficiency tests and thus don't get funding. thanks a billion, NCLB.
lickbrains 9th-Apr-2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
lesson_in_love 9th-Apr-2012 05:41 am (UTC)
Ugh, this is absolutely heartbreaking. I think I (thankfully) got a semi-decent education in high school, but out of the 5 teachers that really made me eager to learn, two are now teaching abroad, and one is going to retire next year, all to get away from the terrible school system.
smittenlotus 9th-Apr-2012 06:05 am (UTC)
Unless that missing teacher is on sick leave for being a horrific accident or has been stricken by a deadly disease, there's no excuse for him or her being gone that long. That's just insane. :T
ayarane 9th-Apr-2012 08:26 am (UTC)
Re: the missing teacher

Oh man, I remember way back when I took Algebra I (my second attempt because numbers and I don't get along) and my teacher had the WORST LUCK EVER. Kept getting in accidents and such and when she wasn't missing class, she was showing up in crutches and casts. Eventually the school got fed up with it and let her go after the semester's end. It sucks because she was one of the friendlier math teachers, but it was getting too much of a disruption and a drain to keep hiring subs. The school had to break up the class and redistribute us among the remaining teachers who also had Algebra I that period. It was a MESS and I wouldn't be surprised if, like, half the class ended up getting Cs or worse. :|
mirhanda 9th-Apr-2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
It might be a serious illness. One of my middle school math teachers had a heart attack mid year, and she wound up having to have open heart surgery. She was gone at least 3-4 months. BUT we had a consistent substitute who was a qualified math teacher to replace her.

Long story short, I don't think the teacher being gone is that big of a deal. Not having a consistent, qualified substitute for a replacement in the meantime is the big deal.
amyura 9th-Apr-2012 10:01 am (UTC)
68 days?!? I need a doctor's note when I hit THREE days.
pepsquad 9th-Apr-2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
makes me think of the math teacher who retired last year. he missed at least 2 days a week in an attempt to use up his sick leave no one was paying him for after he left.
jadebalfour 9th-Apr-2012 02:28 pm (UTC)
I don't want to make a call on this teacher's absences without the facts.
Could be FMLA leave? IDK...but all the districts I've worked in require a doctor's note after 7 work days.

It is pretty easy over the years to accumulate so many sick/personal days, and some districts allow other teachers to transfer their days to people with catastrophic illnesses via sick leave bank. Last year, everyone in my building all donated a bunch of days to a woman in the final stages of breast cancer because if she quit, she'd lose her health insurance.

STILL...that does beg the question...why is the school not hiring competent long term subs in these cases? Why are the kids being shuffled into common rooms for babysitting?
mollywobbles867 9th-Apr-2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
I hate the way schools are nowadays. These kids should be rewarded for wanting to learn, not punished!
doverz 9th-Apr-2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
My mom was talking to me about this yesterday. It started out as a conversation about how people on welfare are lazy and ultimately evil because they abuse the system and it turned to education somehow and she's like "Well, the kids get the same kind of education in the ghettos don't they?"

And that's why I hate having political conversations of any kind with my parents.
chaya 9th-Apr-2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
"Well, the kids get the same kind of education in the ghettos don't they?"

redstar826 9th-Apr-2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
I live in the metro Detroit area, and know a lot of teachers. Detroit schools are treated as that job you take because you can't get anything else and you only plan to be there for a year or two. I bet their teacher turnover is ridiculous because everyone I know who ever taught there only did it until they found something in a suburban district.
tabaqui 9th-Apr-2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
Fuck, this is heartbreaking. SUSPENDED. Because that will help. One more victory for the insane right who think cutting education to the bone won't hurt.

The less educated the citizens are, the easier they are to exploit.
invitroblossoms 9th-Apr-2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
Heartbreaking is the exact word that popped into my head when I read this.
lickbrains 9th-Apr-2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
What the fuck is suspending them supposed to do? It doesn't disprove the fact that they're not doing shit for these kids; suspending them only further proves that they don't care. I applaud the students for their initiative.
mahasin 9th-Apr-2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
So fucking sick of people in this tread and their goddamn bootstraps.
little_rachael 11th-Apr-2012 02:14 am (UTC)
This is indeed heartbreaking. Way to teach young people not to rock the boat.
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