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.
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??
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
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. :|
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.
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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