*** Please call & email their District Superintendents RIGHT NOW to support students free speech rights. Numbers are at bottom of the letters from the affected students, below.
Brief background info:
Across the Twin Cities, thousands of students are planning to walkout tomorrow, April 28th, against the war in Iraq and against military recruitment in schools. This will likely be the largest youth antiwar demonstration in Minnesota since the Vietnam era.
But in recent days reports of repression and disruption tactics from school authorities has gone way up. Under police pressure, a big peace concert scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, as part of the walkout events at Minneapolis Technical and Community College (MCTC), is being shut down.
Below are two urgent appeals from students at two local schools (Central and Jefferson) were threats against students came to a head yesterday. Please read these, act on their request for solidarity, and forward this appeal for help on to others.
Students from these schools are holding a press conference this afternoon at MCTC’s “Free Speech Plaza” at 3:30 PM. Please come and show your support!
Appeal from Jefferson High students
We are three students Jefferson High School in Bloomington, MN. We are being threatened with suspension for passing out fliers advertising the April 28 walkout. We aren’t allowed to wear shirts that say “I’m walking out for peace.” We aren’t even allowed to SAY the word walkout.
First we attempted to get posters a lit approved through official ways. We got called in and told that advocating the walkout by distributing any material or voicing any knowledge of it happening was going to cause a disruption to the school learning environment.
We got a National Lawyers Guild lawyer to write a letter to our principal explaining that Tinker vs. Des Moines gives us the right to organize the walkout in school, but this made no difference. In our meeting with the Principal today [4/26] their lawyer had given them a response to the NLG letter, claiming that it does not fall under protected free speech.
Our right to free speech and protest, as well as the rights of our fellow Youth Against War and Racism chapter members, have been denied. Basically we refuse to be censored for our right to practice our political freedoms including telling people an event is going on. We will continue to pass out leaflets and they will probably continue confiscating or suspending people handing them out.
Here’s what we’d like for you to do: call our administration. Demand that our rights are supported. Flood their offices with phone calls and emails reminding them that teenagers are people with rights, because they seem to have forgotten. The numbers are below.
Bloomington Schools Superintendent,
Peace and Love,
Alex Uhrich, Libby Tousignant, Ben Zabel
Jefferson Youth Against War and Racism
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Appeal from Central High Students
At St. Paul Central High School, our chapter of Youth Against War and Racism has been planning for the antiwar walkout on Friday, April 28 in solidarity with other Twin Cities YAWR chapters. We are protesting against military recruiters in our schools as well as against the war as a whole.
We have produced a variety of leaflets explaining our cause and encouraging students to join us. Over the past week, we have begun to pass the fliers out more intensely. As a result, our school administrators and our principal, Mary Mackbee, have attempted to prevent us from passing them out.
On Wednesday, April 26 before school, many of our fliers were confiscated by Ms. Mackbee while they were being distributed. We were told that we would be punished if they were found passing out any more fliers. The school staff have been instructed to assign detention to any student caught distributing fliers. Later in the day, when we attempted to get back the fliers that had been confiscated, we were then told that, if we were found passing out leaflets, we would be suspended for “willful disobedience”.
Our First Amendment rights cannot be ignored. Regardless of any claims made by the school that we are under their supervision, our fundamental democratic right to freedom of expression cannot be abridged. The schools might claim that we are creating a disruption, however a much greater disruption is being created for us by the military recruiters in our schools and by the loss of funding that our schools must deal with due to taxpayer money being spent on war instead of education.
We cannot allow them to continue to prevent us from expressing ourselves. For this reason, we ask that you help us to protect our democratic freedom and our right to free expression.
We ask that you call or e-mail our District Superintendent, Lou Kanavati, and demand that we be allowed to exercise our basic right to expression and distribute antiwar fliers, brochures, or other documents free of censorship or threats.
Superintendent Lou Kanavati
Sean Foltin and Shane Davis
Central High Youth Against War and Racism
Contact us at: email@example.com