Some Chicago Public Schools students give themselves a lesson in civics

Some Chicago Public Schools students give themselves a lesson in civics
Chicago Public Schools student Asean Johnson, 8, leads chants during a rally Monday in front of City Hall, held to protest school closings. Johnson attends Marcus Garvey Elementary School, one of 53 elementary schools slated for closure this year. Photo by Juan Labreche

Despite a warning coming on high from Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett that “the only place students should be during the school day is the classroom,” some Chicago high school students thought otherwise and walked out of school to take part in the third day of a march in the name of education justice.

The Chicago Teachers Union and community groups opposed to the 54 planned school closures led a three-day march during the weekend, which culminated in a civil disobedience at City Hall and a rally downtown on Monday afternoon. In an email to the parents of CPS students, Byrd-Bennett discouraged them from signing a parental consent form that was passed out with a flier encouraging students to walk out of school for Monday’s protest.

Angelique Roberts, 17, is a junior at Albert G. Lane Technical High School. She and the five other students from Lane Tech who attended speak-ins at closing schools on the North Side as well as the downtown rally were “unfazed” by the schools chief’s warning.

Roberts and her classmates came to the rally because “an attack on one educational institution is an attack on them all,” she said.

She commutes from the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side to Lane Tech, a selective enrollment school in the city’s North Center neighborhood.

Protesters stand in front of the Chicago City Hall Monday during the last day of the “3-Day March” that was led by the Chicago Teachers Union to protest proposed school closings. Photo by Juan Labreche.

Roberts would like to see the school district invest in schools in neighborhoods like Englewood, instead of closing them. She commutes because there are few schools in Englewood that are as good as Lane Tech, she said. “It shouldn’t be that if you want to go to a school of quality you have to sit on a bus for an hour” to go to another part of the city, she said.

The student-led activist group Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools also brought 20-30 students to the rally who had walked out of their high schools.

Ida Hadzimusic, 17, didn’t go into school at Lincoln Park High School on Monday morning.

“My main reason for walking out was because I wanted to support the children who were being denied an education, which is a right,” Hadzimusic said.

Not all CPS students against the closings walked out. Ross Floyd, 16, was at Monday’s afternoon march but said he hadn’t walked out from William Jones College Preparatory High School, also known as Jones College Prep, for fear of getting in trouble with his school’s administration. Instead, he came straight after school.

Yet he still supported the protests. “In an ideal world, every school would be as good as Jones College Prep,” he said. “Kids in Englewood could get the same education as kids in neighborhoods on the North Side.”

One of the most vocal CPS students at the march was 9-year-old Asean Johnson, who attends Marcus Moziah Garvey Elementary, slated for closure, in the Roseland neighborhood. Watch the speech below that he delivered during Monday’s rally:

The Board of Education will announce its decisions on the school closures at Wednesday’s monthly meeting.

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