Revolution#113, December 23, 2007

Suburban Seattle

Courageous H.S. Students Walkout Vs. the War

On November 16, 1,000 students in the Seattle area walked out against the Iraq war in connection with nationwide actions on that day. One of the largest walkouts took place at Foster High School in Tukwila, south of Seattle. One hundred fifty Foster students walked out and marched to the Tukwila city hall.

Seventy-one percent of the kids at Foster are from poor families and eligible for free or reduced-cost school meals. Students at Foster come from all over the world. According to one student who spoke with Revolution, there are 52 different languages spoken at Foster, with kids from 35 different countries.

An adult who works with the students told Revolution that many immigrant kids “who’ve experienced these things [war] in their own home countries” had been part of organizing the walkout. One Somali student had told her that she didn’t “want to live in a country that did these sorts of things.”

Students at proletarian schools like Foster are preyed on by the military in attempts to coerce them into joining, and sending them off to kill and die for U.S. empire. One former student at Foster said that he had “opted out” four times from being called by recruiters, but the Army and Marines are still after him.

In retaliation for the walkout, the school administration and district put teacher Brett Rogers, who supported the walkout, on “administrative leave.” They also placed him and five others under “investigation.” Rogers walked out along with students and was quoted saying, “It’s an illegal war and my cousin is deploying December 4 and I’m not happy about it.” Teachers received a memo from the Tukwila School district saying they were being investigated for “possible misconduct” in connection with the walkout and warned them that if they spoke about this with anyone besides their union representatives, they could be fired. According to students, this has created a chill in the classroom where teachers can’t speak about the walkout or the attacks on them and are concerned that they better “watch what they say” regarding political discussions in class.

The teachers targeted are teachers that are known to be ones that encourage their students to find out about things and think for themselves. As one student said, “the teachers that are open to their students are being silent.” One of the teachers who is under investigation is the wife of an Iraq war vet. Her husband spoke about his experiences at the school on the 16th. She had developed a lesson plan on how students could stand up around issues they believed in that mentioned the walkout. Despite this lesson plan being approved by the school administration, she too is being investigated. Her husband said in a taped interview, “She’s a victim of her own success in inspiring students.”

In response to the attacks on teachers, students at Foster have mobilized protests to speak out at two school board meetings and to gather petitions at the school in support of the teachers. Three hundred students and people from the community signed the petition. One hundred people showed up at the first school board meeting and after this, Brett Rogers was reinstated. When students from the Foster Student Action Club that is organizing the opposition held a meeting in the commons area of the school, the principal arrived with eight Tukwila police and shut the meeting down. An organizer from outside the school was taken off campus and threatened with arrest even when he sought to meet with students at a public library. One student who has been part of the petition drive was suspended for nine days by the school for allegedly wearing an iPod in class—something that is commonly done. Students have also been threatened with punishment for walking out.

One of the students who helped lead the walkout told Revolution of these attacks. “It’s kind of like McCarthyism and the whole Salem witch hunt. You speak out and then you’re a witch, you’re a communist.”

The Foster students have been calling for people to call the principal and school board president to demand the investigations against teachers be stopped, that no teachers be fired, that the suspension against the student be ended and that no disciplinary actions be taken against any teachers or students in connection with the walkout.  

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