The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Ann Arbor Students Protest

Feb 6, 2023

A group of about 100 students walked out of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Thursday, February 2, after the death of another student. The students were protesting a lack of mental health resources in the school.

Their classmate, Adriana “Addy” Davidson, had been found dead on school grounds the Monday before, after having been missing for several days. It was an apparent suicide.

Davidson’s friends reported that it had been clear for a while that she had not been doing well. Friends said she had been missing from classes or sleeping through classes for weeks, and yet teachers and school authorities did nothing.

One friend, Ximena Rowe Avila, said, "The school system needs more mental health resources and awareness and more flexibility and awareness of kids who are struggling…. I think first of all, mental health help would have most likely prevented this. Addy was showing clear signs of struggling."

Students walked out of their classes at 10:15 Thursday and demonstrated outside the school. Some carried signs proclaiming, "Justice for Addy." They vowed not to return to school until the next day.

Students were also angry that it had taken so long to find her after she went missing. She had last been seen in the school the previous Friday at 11 am, yet the school and grounds were not searched until Monday. Her body was found beneath the bleachers by the athletic field. Students also noted that it is far too easy for students to disappear from the school during the school day without any notice or follow-up by teachers or administrators.

Another Pioneer student died last May after jumping from a bridge into the nearby Huron River—in the middle of a school day.

Avila said it was clear among Davidson’s friends that something was wrong by noon Friday. After Davidson did not show to their second hour class, "friends texted her and asked if she was OK. She said no and stopped responding." Previously, she would always respond, even when struggling.

The Ann Arbor Schools Superintendent issued a statement acknowledging the "short walkout" and said it was "supported by the Pioneer administration"—that is, it supported their First Amendment rights to express themselves. What the Superintendent particularly appreciated, the statement said, was that the demonstration was done in an orderly fashion and didn’t disrupt anything!

The administration can say that the demonstration wasn’t disruptive, but it clearly got their attention.

The students were absolutely justified in disrupting their own school day to draw attention to something that is hitting so many of them. Ann Arbor is one of the wealthier school districts in Southeast Michigan. If students at this school feel this lack of support toward their wellbeing and mental health, we can safely say that this lack exists much wider. How many schools lack even one actual counselor on school grounds, let alone enough to adequately address the needs of the student population? And if demonstrations can take place in one school, they can take place in many.

The Superintendent’s statement also said, "As everyone is aware, mental health needs are an ongoing concern throughout our communities, and additional support is needed."

On that, everyone can agree! So, what are the schools doing to secure that additional support?