Newark Students at Weequahic HS stage sit-in, are being denied food & bathrooms

UPDATE: Clever tactics by the school district. Protesting students were after a time allowed to have food, but were not allowed back in the gym if they chose to eat. So, those of you who called and were told students weren’t kept from food, I guess the best you can say is that Newark Public Schools wasn’t technically lying to you.

Late this morning, the students at Weequahic High School staged a sit-in in their school gymnasium to protest what Chris Christie and his appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson plan to do to their school. I have reports saying students are now locked into that gym, that the heat has been turned up to force them out (this reported by a teacher) and that they are being denied both food and access to bathrooms.

Can you take a moment to help get the students’ backs? Call 973-733-7334, and tell whoever answers that you want students to get their lunch and be allowed to use the restroom. As always, to be effective, be brief, polite and firm. Faith leaders and city officials are on site now to observe the civil disobedience. The school district is denying reports of excess heat, and keeping students from bathroom and food.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Newark Public Schools try to use physical discomfort to try and bust up their resolve. During students’ 4-day sit in at Cami Anderson’s office, they were denied food until clergy pushed their way into the building. This is big league protest, but it is worth reminding Cami’s aides and allies that these are still minors whose safety and basic human comforts must be respected. At a street protest, leader Kristin Towkaniuk, 17, had her arm broken by an officer who she says never identified himself as police. Student, parent and community resistance has been going on now there for many months; leadership, and commitment being shown here by the senior pupils in New Jersey’s largest school district is nothing short of remarkable. They’re not going away. But that doesn’t mean anyone gets to abuse them.

NJ Communities United:

“As long as the Governor insists that Cami Anderson remain the superintendent of Newark Public Schools, students, parents and teachers will continue to engage in civil disobedience to demand a democratic local control  in the future of Newark’s public schools. Just as we partnered with the students at East Side High School to develop student leaders to build their action into a major walk-out and march through Newark, we stand ready to work with the student leaders at Weequahic. Until local control is restored, we will continue to see an escalation of these events.”

The Alliance for the Newark Public Schools has criticized the turnaround process, producing two reports that demonstrate students did no better in “renew” schools, and sometimes even did worse.

To qualify as a turnaround, by federal standards, the school must be failing. Weeks ago, Weequahic teachers produced documentation that showed student scores improving – despite faculty and resource cuts to the school. Just days ago, afterEast Side HS’s walkout, Mayor Ras Baraka, an educator and former principal at Newark Central HS, came to Weequahic to urge further student and community resistance to Cami Anderson’s relentless push to pull resources and faculty from Newark schools, then classify them as failing, all to lay groundwork for the privatization her critics charge is the entire point of her mission in Newark.

Many of Newark’s emerging youth are learning incredible lessons of organizing, of successful civil disobedience, of community activism here. Through it all, considerable support being shown them – by their own student leaders at Newark Students Union, NJ Communities United, NAACP, many community organizations and many of Newark’s elected reps, including Baraka, who has repeatedly called for Cami’s immediate firing.

Cami Anderson’s operation is an enormous failure – of accountability, of shocking disrespect to Newark’s families; a disorganized mess. In any normal situation where skill and success would be required, she’d have been gone long ago. Just about the only thing – and only person – she still has protecting her is the now mostly absent, scandal-ridden, White House hopeful, Chris Christie.  

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