I just received my copy of Teaching Tolerance‘s magazine (Spring 2009) and I was both inspired by and happy to read the article called “Crossing the Gap” about students from the South Side of Chicago who protested inequalities in the system on the first day of school by traveling to a wealthier section of Chicago and standing outside of a school.

The article described how students in both schools ended up working together to create a “Student Bill of Rights” and a group called the Illinois Council of Students to work for equality in education for all students. That is the part that made me happy.

I was inspired when I read the lesson plan that went along with it. The lesson’s framework states: “We often teach our students that school segregation ended with Brown v. Board of Education, but the reality is not quite that simple. While schools today are not segregated by law, segregated housing patterns and unequal funding systems have concentrated students of color into underfunded, underequipped institutions that some critics call “apartheid schools.”

What a concise way to summarize my earlier post! I was almost happy to know that others see this inequality and are addressing it. My question for myself now is “what can I do?”

I just found out through the grapevine that our building has been identified as an ‘Improvement School’ (or some lame title like that), so they’ve been sending crews of electricians, plumbers, painters, etc.. to our school to make physical improvements to the building. (Ironically, these “improvements” have made the building so hot that all the teachers have all of their windows open all day.) Here’s the kicker: all of this has been done because WE ARE NOT GETTING A NEW BUILDING. When I heard that, it was like getting kicked in the chest. WHAT? How is that LEGAL? This place is a hazard and a blight and depressing as hell. (Don’t get me wrong–if you’ve read my other posts, you know I love my kids and what I do.) The building for me has become this sad symbol of what my kids are up against and how much adults are failing them.

So now I’m thinking: “What can I do? Who can help me get the word out about this? Are there other schools that look like ours? Can we work together?”

The Extension on the lesson is to create a partnership with a teacher from another district, assemble a portfolio documenting the school’s facilities and then coming up with a Student Bill of Rights. I’ll keep it in mind as a possible solution…..

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