Fox 2 Tours DPS School After Recent Walkout

*Notice how most of the students interviewed saying positive things about Western were related to school staff/employees.

DETROIT (WJBK) — More than a hundred students recently staged a walkout at Western International High School protesting conditions and academics inside the school.

"We’re fighting for an equal and public education. We think we deserve better. We don’t have books. We don’t have tissue in the bathroom. We don’t have teachers that care," said student Raychel Gafford.

That was last Wednesday and those students were suspended. On this Wednesday, FOX 2 was allowed a look inside Western because DPS says the complaints aren’t true. We were shown clean hallways, quiet classrooms, a new gym and pool. 

"I don’t feel like I’ve been robbed [of] an education. I like it here," said Lizette Esquiver.

"Education is perfect. I think I will be able to succeed farther than I thought possible," said Jacari Wells.

"I’m going to Western Michigan University. I have three AP classes, so I’m ready," said Tomas Mauricio.

"A lot of kids want to come here because of the good education that you are offered here," said Belicia Flores.

However, others say the students that protested have valid academic concerns, and with nearby Southwestern High School slated to close, those 500 to 600 students could come to Western.

"They don’t have room for them, so they’re closing these schools without a plan," said DPS Board Member Elena Herrada.

Principal Rodolfo Diaz said capacity is 2,200. Only 1,300 are currently enrolled, plus Southwestern students could go to other districts or Northwestern, not just this school.

"We do have the capacity for Southwestern, if indeed it is going to close, to come to Western, and [we would] welcome them with open arms."

A DPS spokesperson said there is open enrollment, but for some the issue isn’t really about Western. It’s about failing schools and funneling students into them.

"None of the people who are writing this legislation would dream of putting their kids in an EAA school, Herrada said.

She is talking about the Education Achievement Authority, the new state school system made up of 15 of Detroit’s lowest achieving schools. Western is not among them, but six other high schools are. The stated goal is to turn around student achievement, improve it, but Herrada said what’s happening in DPS amounts to unequal access to education.

"It’s a failing district. We’re asking parents to keep their students out of the EAA until some answers are given to them."

It’s a controversy not likely to die down anytime soon. 

Our Story: SWD Freedom School 5/1

"DPS is supposed to be ran by community.  Charter schools make community not have a voice for a public education."

"Money is being misused.  Roy Roberts is making decisions with NO CONSENT!  Parents and students should be able to vote on how money is spent!"

Our Story: SWD Freedom School 5/1

"it’s not about how many students a school can hold, but how many students it can educate fairly."

"Stop closing DPS, but not only keep them open, but improve the learning system."

Our Story: SWD Freedom School 5/1

"We are a group of independent students trying to get our voices heard because we are usually silenced by most adults!!!"

"We are INFORMED ACTIVISTS who know what is best in our education"

Our Story: SWD Freedom School 5/1

"Focus on learning, not on test scores"

"We started this freedom school because teachers aren’t giving us the education we deserve.  Our curriculum is unfair"

Our Story: SWD Freedom School 5/1

Before joining the Mayday 2012 March & Celebration

"we’re standing up for what we believe in"

"STOP DPS Security laying hands on students, Abuse of power!"

UPDATED: Letter2OurParentz

May 2, 2012

Dear Parents or Guardians,

On April 25th, 2012 over 300 students from Western International High School and 75 from Southwestern participated in a joint student walkout. We were walking out in solidarity with our fellow students at Southwestern High School to save their school from closing. More importantly, we were also fighting for quality education for us at Western, and at ALL DPS schools.

A estimate of 180 Western students and an estimate of about 30 Southwestern students were suspended for participating in the walkout with an exception of one student who was expelled. The suspensions where distributed unfairly due to favoritism also we feel that we were being targeted unfairly because we were making a political statement against Detroit Public Schools. Our first amendment rights do not end when we walk into school. While those who skipped school are faced with little or no punishment, we were giving five to twelve day suspensions. Some were not punished at all.

We do not understand why we are being punished with a loss of educational opportunity when that is exactly what we were fighting for. We were fed up and took a stand for something we believe in and were punished with getting even more of our education taken away. We know that many of you came to this country for a better life and we respect that, now we want to fight for a better life for ourselves. In response to our unfair punishment, we decided to continue learning, so we started the Southwest Detroit Freedom School the very next day. Community members, university professors, and teachers are dedicating their time to help us continue our learning process. We have been receiving support from people all over the city, the state, the country, and internationally.

We knew that by doing the walkout there were going to be repercussions of our actions. We are asking that you stand by our side in our struggle and understand that this is for OUR future and the future of those who come after us. We have support from the National Lawyers Guild, who is trying to get our suspensions revoked and removed from our records. If you have not called them, we advise you to do it now: 313-963-0843.

We ask that you continue to stand by our sides and support us during our struggle for a better education. We need you to call DPS and ask them to take away our suspensions from our records, to stop the closing of Southwestern High School and all DPS schools, and to let us have a seat at the table where decisions are being made about OUR FUTURE and OUR SCHOOLS.

Thank You,

Southwest Detroit Freedom School Students

2 de Mayo del 2011

Queridos Padres/Madres,

El 25 de Abril del 2012 mas de 300 estudiantes de Western International High School y Southwestern High School participamos en una demostración estudiantil donde nos salimos de nuestras escuelas, en huelga. Participamos en una demostración en solidaridad para que no cierren Southwestern High School, pero mas importante, estábamos peleando por una educación mejor no solo para nosotros, pero para todos los estudiantes de Detroit Public Schools.

Un estimado de 180 estudiantes fueron suspendidos en Western y como 30 en Southwestern por participar en la huelga y uno fue expulsado. Las suspensiones fueron distribuidas injustamente, y nos señalaron injustamente por hacer una declaración política en contra de las Escuelas Publicas de Detroit. Nuestros derechos civiles no se acaban al entrar a la escuela. Estudiantes que se vuelan las clases aveces ni son suspendidos, pero a nosotros nos dieron suspensiones de 5 a 12 días. Unos de los estudiantes que participaron ni siquiera fueron suspendidos. Pero nosotros no hicimos NADA MALO.

No entendemos porque nos están castigando quitándonos la oportunidad a nuestra educación, si eso es por lo que peleábamos desde el principio. Ya estábamos cansados de esperar por un sistema que no trabaja para nosotros y decidimos hacer algo. Muchos de ustedes vinieron a esta país a luchar por una vida mejor que la que ustedes tuvieron, nosotros ahora estamos luchando por lo mismo!

En respuesta a nuestro castigo, decidimos seguir aprendiendo. Empezamos la Escuela de Libertad de Southwest Detroit al próximo día. Han venido miembros de la universidad, profesores universitarios, y maestros locales a ayudarnos. Hemos estado recibiendo apoyo de gente en todas partes de la ciudad, del estado, del pais, y internacionalmente. .

Sabíamos que al participar en la demostración iban a haber consecuencias. Estamos pidiéndoles que se paren de nuestro lado en nuestra lucha y que entiendan que esto es por NUESTRO futuro y el futuro de los que siguen después de nosotros. Tenemos apoyo de la Organización Nacional de Abogados (National Lawyers Guild) que van a tratar de remover las suspensiones de nuestros récords. Si todavía no les as hablado, hazlo ahora: 313-963-0843.

Les pedimos que se paren de nuestro lado y nos apoyen en nuestra lucha por una educación mejor. Necesitamos que llamen a DPS y les pidan que remuevan nuestras suspensiones de nuestro récord, que paren el cierre de Southwestern High School y todas las escuelas DPS, y que nos dejen sentar en la mesa donde se están hacienda decisiones sobre NUESTRO FUTURO y NUESTRAS ESCUELAS.

Muchas Gracias por entender,

Estudiantes de la Southwest Detroit Freedom School (Estudiantes de Western y Southwestern)

SWD Freedom School 5/2

Wednesday (May 2, 2012)

Class Starts at 10:55am

Lunch at 1:15pm 

5:30 p.m. - EVERYONE IS WELCOME to celebrate the one week anniversary of the walkouts!!  Bring FOOD, blankets, and your :-)

#letourvoicesbeheard - Video Recap of the Walkouts 4/25