The Spark

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

High school students protest war

Nov 19, 2007

On November 1, a group of students at Morton West High School in Berwyn, Illinois, a working class suburb of Chicago, protested against the Iraq war and regular visits to the school by military recruiters. They sat down in the cafeteria and refused to go to classes.

About 200 students participated in the protest at one time or another during the day. The school administration tried to reduce the size of the protest by getting some parents, teachers and athletic coaches to convince particular students to leave. Later, they got the roughly 25 students who were still protesting to move from the cafeteria into a hall near the principal’s office. In return, the students were promised a light punishment for cutting classes that day.

But at the end of the day, the district superintendent of schools double-crossed the students. All the remaining protesters got 10-day suspensions, and were threatened with expulsion; the superintendent claimed they had engaged in mob action. This accusation contradicted Berwyn’s police chief who reported that officers had made no arrests nor filed any charges because “It was all very peaceful and orderly.”

Parents and other supporters of the student protesters were outraged at the long suspensions. They mobilized and forced the school superintendent to drop any threat to expel students and to reduce the 10-day suspensions for all but four of the protesters. Parents are now pushing to have all the suspensions removed from the students’ school records.

One local supporter of the students wrote in to the Chicago Sun-Times saying, “Recruiters are preying on our young, especially targeting the poor, and are allowed full access to public schools when the very war they are promoting is robbing our nation’s schools of much-needed funding. If students have the audacity to speak out about this obvious injustice, they are told to shut up and get out.... You are good enough to die for your country but not good enough to stand up for your rights.”

He is right. End the war! Bring all the troops home now!