BROOKLYN, NY, October 16 — Yesterday teachers at our high school won a small but significant victory, staging a “work-in” that defied an administrative edict which would limit our after-school (especially anti-racist) activities. One of the last remaining large schools with a fairly active union chapter, a student body that has often fought back and a group of teachers who work closely with Progressive Labor Party, we have faced continuous attacks in the past few years.
Last year we won many important anti-racist victories. Students and teachers organized a mass campaign against racism, including assemblies and forums. Volunteer trips to New Orleans supported workers there. A sharp struggle defended a teacher threatened by the administration for involvement in these trips. Eventually the administration was forced to back down, but not for long.
This year students and teachers returned to discover that the school would be closing early and activities would be limited. Even staff members who stayed late to work would be considered “trespassing.” Many students are on late schedule, so according to this new policy they’d have less than an hour to participate in after-school activities. Interestingly, clubs that would be most limited by this rule are those which have been fighting racism and building student unity. We’ve had several mass meetings and are planning a teach-in about the Jena 6. Over 40 students packed a classroom two weeks ago to hear college students report on their trip to Jena.
So to answer the administration’s new policy we organized a “work-in” and encouraged teachers to stay late to test the waters. Earlier we had been warned that we’d be considered “trespassing” and “violating school policy” if we stayed late. However, not surprisingly, when groups of teachers did stay late in their respective offices, we were commended for working so hard and told that “special security” would be provided for us that day! The administration backed down pretty quickly.
We should be clear that these new rules are mainly an attack on students, as well as on the movement we seek to build. Hopefully, this small act of resistance is just the beginning of larger things to come. We must take on the administration at every juncture and point out that their interests are opposite from ours — they keep the school open for various events when they see the need, but are ready to kick students and teachers to the curb on a daily basis. Unity of students, parents and teachers to fight these attacks is crucial. We plan to step up this struggle, increase our CHALLENGE sales and organize more actions and struggles this semester.