A recent anti-war protest at Morton West H.S. in Berwyn (a school I taught at for two years) has met with severe repercussions including suspensions and expulsions. I am pasting a report of the incident I found on-line beneath my words here. (A follow-up report appears in today's Tribune)
Ask yourself if you think the students' civil liberties were violated, and more locally, how you feel about the punishment. Here are some other questions I've been asking myself: What would happen at New Trier if a similar protest were held? To what extent is the war being discussed and debated here, and is this level of discussion and debate sufficient?
According to this morning's New Trier News, only six of some 1000 graduates from the NT class of 2007 joined the military after high school. At Morton the numbers are much greater. Some of the students I taught felt college was well beyond their means financially and many told me they felt they were "not college material" since no one in their family had ever gone to college. To what extent does social class determine not only who joins the military but also who discusses the war?
Now the article:
Morton West High School Expulsion
Over 30 anti-war protesters at Morton West High School in Berwyn face expulsion for a demonstration at the school on Thursday.
Scores of Students Face Expulsion Due to Sit-in Berwyn, IL
November 06, 2007
Over 70 students participated in a sit-in against the Iraq War on All Saint's Day, Thursday, November 1st. It began third hour when dozens of students gathered quietly in the lunchroom at Morton West High School and refused to leave. The administrators and police became involved immediately and locked down the school for a half hour after class ended. Students report that they were promised that there would be no charges besides cutting classes if they took their protest outside so as not to disturb the school day. The students complied, and were led to a corner outside the cafeteria where they sang songs and held signs while classes resumed.
Despite a police line set up between the protestors and the student body, many other students joined the demonstration. Organizers say they chose November first because it is the Christian holy day called the feast of All Saints and a national day of peace. They wrote a letter and delivered it to Superintendent, Dr. Ben Nowakowski who was present at the time, stating the reason for their protest.
Deans, counselors and even the Superintendent tried to change the minds of a few, mainly those students with higher GPA scores to abandon the protest. The school called the homes of many of the protestors. Those whose parents arrived before the end of school and took their students home, or left before the protest ended at the final bell, received 3-5 days suspension. All others, an estimated 37 received 10 days suspension and expulsion papers. Parents report that Nowakowski stated those who are seventeen will also face police charges.
Parents who are frantically trying to spare their child's expulsion flooded the school yesterday to file appeals on the matter. So far, Superintendent Nowakowski has held firm on the punishments. They are expected to find out the results of the appeals on Tuesday. Parents and students report and the school's videotape shown to some of the parents confirms that the students were non-violent in their action.
The protest came on the heels of a recent incident on October 15th, when a student reported hearing that another student had a gun on campus. The story of the eyewitness was deemed unreliable and the school was not locked down. Later that week (October 19), the Berwyn police, acting on a tip arrested one of the youths originally questioned for gun possession and he allegedly confessed to carrying an unloaded semi-automatic handgun that day. All these issues, plus the expected announcement of whether uniforms will be established in the school should make the next Board of Education meeting on Wednesday at 7:00pm at the Morton East campus very well-attended.
Click HERE for the Superintendent's statement on the matter.