Students walk out in support of teachers

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By Lydia Poncé
Two hundred Venice High School students walked out of their classes in support of teachers and quality education, May 15, even as the campus sprinklers were being turned on and off.
The ‘Original Five,’ who organized the strike, called out through a small bullhorn, “We strike because our teachers can’t! We want to tell LAUSD to spend the stimulus money now and save our teachers!” This demonstration was put together via text messages only 24 hours prior.
Even so, there were some students who did not know why they walked out. They may have even seen it as an opportunity to ditch. But as they marched through the campus, the message was loud enough and clear enough- “It’s not a ditch day, it’s a demonstration! Enough is enough! Flip the war funding to education! Books not bombs; teachers not bombs! Teach peace!” Any student that listened for five or 10 minutes learned plenty and it was empowering as their voices united.
They marched to the covered cafeteria area, and produced their cell phones to call LAUSD to demand that the stimulus money be spent to save teachers and their jobs. The phone lines became jammed, but there would be other opportunities to call.
Upon returning to the front of the school, there were eight police cars arriving. Students then began chanting, “Police need a raise!” The officers’ smiles revealed as they stood by. It was a peaceful demonstration.
There was a moment of silence and students held up fingers in a ‘v’ in recognition of their brothers and sisters who went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq in a poverty draft so they could have a free education. Their peace signs were held up for those who never returned to their homes.
Students moved in front of the auditorium as a nutrition break approached. The Venice High administration offered to open the auditorium doors so the students could share dialogue and get slips to return to class. An administration staff member announced, ‘No one would be marked truant. If they got a re-admit slip and returned to class.’
After that, there was a few student announcements, ‘Create a student union!’ There was a verbal commitment by all students attending to do the hard work before them. That hard work included showing up for school, no truancies. Students must do their homework and talk to their parents about the demonstration, about the union. They all shuffled out, row by row. Everyone was safe, not one truancy ticket was written.
However, many students later were marked truant, if they were on the front lawn or did not have a note to readmit them on Monday. The newly formed VSU (Venice Student Union) is working to have the truancies removed off everyone’s records. VSU has gained support from the ACLU, the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Public Counsel of Los Angeles.
The students shared with me that they want to be as inclusive and work to do outreach. The VSU belongs to all the students who attend Venice High. The Venice Students learned quickly in their class, Demonstration 101 and it yielded something hopeful. The VSU has ratified a Constitution. We shall see how it works out.
It wasn’t that long ago when segregation was the law. Without the Birmingham students who walked out, who had to face jail time, dogs, beatings and fire hoses; the Venice students would not be able today to unite and demonstrate for their rights for a quality education.
Venice Alumni and parents who want to support the VSU as a community liaison, please check out their Facebook website.
The revolution may not be televised but it certainly will be high tech!
By Lydia Poncé
Two hundred Venice High School students walked out of their classes in support of teachers and quality education, May 15, even as the campus sprinklers were being turned on and off.
The ‘Original Five,’ who organized the strike, called out through a small bullhorn, “We strike because our teachers can’t! We want to tell LAUSD to spend the stimulus money now and save our teachers!” This demonstration was put together via text messages only 24 hours prior.
Even so, there were some students who did not know why they walked out. They may have even seen it as an opportunity to ditch. But as they marched through the campus, the message was loud enough and clear enough- “It’s not a ditch day, it’s a demonstration! Enough is enough! Flip the war funding to education! Books not bombs; teachers not bombs! Teach peace!” Any student that listened for five or 10 minutes learned plenty and it was empowering as their voices united.
They marched to the covered cafeteria area, and produced their cell phones to call LAUSD to demand that the stimulus money be spent to save teachers and their jobs. The phone lines became jammed, but there would be other opportunities to call.
Upon returning to the front of the school, there were eight police cars arriving. Students then began chanting, “Police need a raise!” The officers’ smiles revealed as they stood by. It was a peaceful demonstration.
There was a moment of silence and students held up fingers in a ‘v’ in recognition of their brothers and sisters who went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq in a poverty draft so they could have a free education. Their peace signs were held up for those who never returned to their homes.
Students moved in front of the auditorium as a nutrition break approached. The Venice High administration offered to open the auditorium doors so the students could share dialogue and get slips to return to class. An administration staff member announced, ‘No one would be marked truant. If they got a re-admit slip and returned to class.’
After that, there was a few student announcements, ‘Create a student union!’ There was a verbal commitment by all students attending to do the hard work before them. That hard work included showing up for school, no truancies. Students must do their homework and talk to their parents about the demonstration, about the union. They all shuffled out, row by row. Everyone was safe, not one truancy ticket was written.
However, many students later were marked truant, if they were on the front lawn or did not have a note to readmit them on Monday. The newly formed VSU (Venice Student Union) is working to have the truancies removed off everyone’s records. VSU has gained support from the ACLU, the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Public Counsel of Los Angeles.
The students shared with me that they want to be as inclusive and work to do outreach. The VSU belongs to all the students who attend Venice High. The Venice Students learned quickly in their class, Demonstration 101 and it yielded something hopeful. The VSU has ratified a Constitution. We shall see how it works out.
It wasn’t that long ago when segregation was the law. Without the Birmingham students who walked out, who had to face jail time, dogs, beatings and fire hoses; the Venice students would not be able today to unite and demonstrate for their rights for a quality education.
Venice Alumni and parents who want to support the VSU as a community liaison, please check out their Facebook website.
The revolution may not be televised but it certainly will be high tech!

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