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Fred Klonsky: Charter Teachers in Chicago Are Organizing, So Are Charter Students

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Fred Klonsky has reported on the vote to organize a union by teachers in one of Chicago’s big corporate charter chains.

He reports here that charter students too are asserting their right to be treated with dignity. The students in the Noble Network, Chicago’s most politically connected corporate charter chain, are pushing back against abusive “no e causes” policies. The schools in this chain are named for the billionaires who fund charters, including billionaire Governor Bruce Rainer and Hyatt Hotels billionaire Penny Pritzker, who was Obama’s Secretary of Commerce. High school students can’t be bullied the way young children can. Even if they have been taught for years to be compliant, they can’t help but ask questions. My partner, who was a high school principal, always says she loves adolescents because they have an innate sense of justice.

The students expressed their demands:

We, the students, parents, families, staff, and community members of the Noble Network of charter schools demand that CEO and Superintendent Michael Milkie and the Noble Board of Directors meet the following three demands all across the Noble Network of Charter Schools.

1) Petition to Abolish the Bathroom Escort Rule

We, the undersigned, hereby demand the abolishment of the bathroom escort rule.

The student body agrees that the bathroom escort rule is unnecessary and comes with many pushbacks. We believe that:
Bathroom escorts fail to show up when requested, leaving students waiting for extended periods of time, from five minutes to not showing up at all. This can lead to infections and other health problems. It is dehumanizing to require students aged 15-18 to have an escort to the bathroom.

Female students are left to bleed through their pants. In numerous instances, female students have been left to soil themselves due to the escort rule. In addition, Noble Schools restrictive policy requires teachers to adhere to a rule instead of listening and responding to students needs. The bathroom escort rule is extremely embarrassing and unnecessary.

2) Petition to reduce homework and reform the conditions under which a lasalle can be received

Lasalles are often issued for small mistakes and it is unfair to make students stay after school and take away from their personal time for minor mistakes.

It is unreasonable to issue Lasalles simply because a student forgot to write their name or have turned in an assignment written in pen rather than in pencil. Thus, Lasalle should only be given if the work itself has not been turned in rather than for other unreasonable circumstances.

The amount of homework given on certain days leaves students with no choice but to stay up all night in order to avoid receiving a lasalle.

Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best, and students are barely receiving half of that. Without enough sleep, students are more likely to fall asleep in class and lose focus.

Some students have after-school activities such as jobs, clubs, tutoring, etc. Thus, students are forced to stay up even later due to the burden of homework. Students then have no choice but to turn in work of low quality and end up doing the homework to get it done rather than to actually learn from it, rendering it useless.

After going several nights without receiving enough sleep, many students are showing early symptoms of sleep deprivation. This results in demerits being issued for falling asleep in class, and it is something students simply cannot control.

A Stanford study showed that 56% of students report homework as their number one stressor. This seems like unnecessary stress and does nothing to create an enviroment for knowledge seeking. The purpose of schooling is to foster a lifelong pursuit of learning and knowledge.

3) Petition to have more Freedom of Expression with less restrictions

Noble students lose their self-identity at the doors of Noble charter schools. Freedom of expression is heavily restricted and there is no opportunity for students to express themselves and distinguish themselves from the crowd.
Since “there is no funding for more art classes during school time,” we demand more funding for afterschool programs such as art, music, photography, poetry/writing.

Allow tattoos to be visible

Allow ribbons and pins to be worn

Allow hair to be dyed any color

Give student council/government more power to influence the school and its culture

Congratulations to the high school students who want freedom of expression. Break those chains that bind you!

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