50 Black Young Men Who Wanted To Improve Their Education Are Suspended
About 50 high school students at Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit were suspended today after walking out of classes to protest a lack of consistent teachers, the removal of the principal and a host of other administrative problems at the all-boys school.
The students were chanting “We want education!”
Parents organized the walkout because they fear for the school’s future. This year, as recently as last month, students spent weeks passing time in the gym due to a lack of teachers, parents said.
Worries escalated after district offices moved into part of the building in January and the school was not listed as an application school for next year’s directory. In addition, the school’s founding principal, Sean Vann, was reassigned on Wednesday after a three-month sick leave.
Parents said Detroit needs a school to address the achievement gap concerning African-American men but fear this school’s future is in jeopardy.
“They’re failing these young black men,” said parent Sharise Smith.
Smith said her son got an A in geometry first semester without taking a final exam. “It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn’t because he earned an A.”
Hundreds of students who staged a protest earlier this month about administrative changes at Denby High were not suspended. Smith called the suspensions unfair and an indication that nothing will change at Douglass.
“What are they teaching them by suspending them – that they’re in a communist country and can’t protest injustice?”
Some students at Douglass Academy spent most of their time for in February in the gym, or the cafeteria or the library. That’s because about half of the teachers at Douglass Academy called in sick for several days.
Douglass Academy enrolls about 200 students in grades six to 12 and is the only all-boys public school in the state. High school students say they’re months behind the syllabus for classes, especially math. Students have had several math teachers come and go.
“We’ve been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated,” said Tevin Hill, a senior, who made the announcement to start the walkout. “They didn’t listen to us when we complained to the administration. They didn’t listen to the parents when they complained to the administration, so I guess this is the only way to get things solved.”
Senior Eric Rodgers agreed. “We’re not learning anything. We are just here for attendance.”
Parents are circulating a petition to take to the district to demand enforcement of the “abuse of sick time” policy to reduce teacher absenteeism. They have accumulated a thick stack of complaints e-mailed since September to Roy Roberts, the Detroit Public Schools emergency manager, and Karen Ridgeway, the superintendent.
This comes months after Roberts said the district’s problems with assigning enough teachers to cover classes had been resolved. Roberts visited Douglass last month on a surprise visit and found the school in order. If there are problems at the school, the issues are being addressed, he told the Free Press.
Reverend David Murray, a member of the DPS school board, attended the protest saying “the children need to take a stand” because school officials are failing to ensure that the boys receive an adequate education.
“They’re not involved in academic learning – just taking a seat, occupying a space — and some of these children are near graduation,” Murray said.
It’s not the first time Douglass has had problems this year. Detroit Lions star Ndamukong Suh and local businesses stepped in to replace football gear when a theft threatened to end the team’s season in the fall.