Anti-war protests save teachers
Last November over 125 students walked out of Foster High School in the US, in response to a call from Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) to protest against the war in Iraq and military recruiters in schools. YAWR was initiated by members of Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Party's sister organisation in the US.
Bryan Watson, Socialist Alternative
71% of the Foster HS student body is low-income and eligible for free or reduced-cost school meals and military recruiters are very active.
In response to the walkout, the Tukwila School District, near Seattle threatened students with suspension. But their main targets were teachers, some of whom encouraged or walked out with the students. Disciplinary investigations threatened the firing of six teachers, and one of them, Brett Rogers, was placed on administrative leave.
Outraged, students, community activists, and Socialist Alternative began organising to resist these attacks.
1,000 protest emails and phone calls flooded the school administration demanding they reinstate Brett Rogers and respect the democratic rights of teachers and students. However, the administration scandalously called in the local police to break up a peaceful student meeting held in the school.
Over 100 students, family members, and community supporters turned out to a school board meeting to demand disciplinary actions are dropped. One student activist was victimised and suspended for nine days. A teacher was sent into the campaign in an attempt to weaken it.
But radical students and Socialist Alternative focused on mobilising students, teachers, and community supporters, the main forces capable of forcing the administration to capitulate.
The school authorities faced relentless pressure on all fronts. The Seattle teachers' union and the LA teachers' union (the second largest teachers' union in the country) passed resolutions in support of the teachers and students.
The campaign received significant local media coverage and under ongoing pressure by students, community members, anti-war groups, and concerned individuals worldwide, and the threat of further organising by students, the school board finally capitulated.
What we won:
- Brett Rogers was reinstated.
- Almost all investigations against the remaining teachers were dropped.
- The disgraced principal of Foster HS was forced to resign.
- Students and the local anti-war movement won a significant victory highlighting the power and potential of organised students and workers, through a campaign spearheaded by students and Socialist Alternative.
- Teachers around the area have been emboldened that they can stand up to the pro-war activities of their school authorities.
- Students have learnt an important lesson about organising and are now continuing to oppose military recruiters.
In The Socialist 30 January 2008:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Debt and Housing Feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news