Freedom School!

Student activists at several Detroit public school have started a Freedom School in response to unjust suspensions and expulsions related to a joint student walk-out. The walk-out was organized to protest school closures and inadequate learning conditions.

In a letter to parents, the students of Western International High School and Southwest High School wrote,

“We do not understand why we are being punished with a loss of educational opportunity when that is exactly what we were fighting for. We were fed up and took a stand for something we believe in and were punished with getting even more of our education taken away. We know that many of you came to this country for a better life and we respect that, now we want to fight for a better life for ourselves. In response to our unfair punishment, we decided to continue learning, so we started the Southwest Detroit Freedom School the very next day.”

Last month, students at Denby High school also walked out after the announcement that the school will be placed in the new statewide district for “low-performing schools,” according to the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). Another spontaneous protest took place at Fredrick Douglass Academy when 50 students walked out because they did not have teachers.


Raychel Gafford, a student at Western International delivered a speech to the protesters, reprinted below:

Hi my name is Raychel Gafford. I’m 17 years old and i am in the 11th grade. We are the students of Western International standing in solidarity with the students of southwestern. We are here not only in solidarity with southwestern but to draw the line and take a stand for our education.

We are walking out to fight for quality education and to protect our public school system. We are here demanding better education and that our voices be heard. Our school system should work WITH US not against us. I’m sick and tired of being pushed around. WHAT ABOUT YOU??

All I hear when I hear about DPS schools is closings, chartering, MONEY MONEY MONEY and LACK OF MONEY! To be honest, I don’t think our education should have a price tag. I thought schools are supposed to be about educating students so we can be the best members of the community and grow to be successful adults.

Schools are assets to the community. What’s going to happen when all our assets are privatized?? 80% of charter schools are for profit. THAT’S NOT WHAT OUR COMMUNITY NEEDS. Schools are not supposed to be ran as businesses, education is a long term investment. We should not be making money off of our students. We are children, WE ARE PEOPLE! NOT—DOLLAR SIGNS!

The solution is not to close public schools. It’s not a quick fix. It only does long term damage to our neighborhoods. (When schools close, our families, and our neighbors leave the community so that their kids can have access to quality schools and opportunities elsewhere.) We need to improve the public school system here, not shrink it down or sell if off to charters until it disappears completely.

Our community thrives off of public education. Without our proper education we are less prepared for life. We are the future! WE ARE THE NEXT GENERATION OF ADULTS! WE’RE HERE TELLING YOU THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM! We’re done choosing the lesser of two evils, or accepting solutions that are not good for our communities. This time we’re leading the way. We are demanding respect!

Classes are being taught for the duration of the student suspensions by school teachers, community educators and the students themselves.  Curriculum so far includes the history of Southwest Detroit, the Civil Rights Movement, Breakdancing, the Detroit Public School system, Civil Rights, Lino-cut prints, woodprints, screenprinting, social justice, Hip-Hop  and poetry workshops.   The first project was to “re-imagine the student code of conduct”.