Picture: Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune,
Foss High School students win victory for free speech
Foss High School Principal, Sharon Schauss, finally agreed to proposals from Students Against the Draft and War (SADW) demanding our right to free speech in the High School and to be allowed to campaign against military recruitment in School grounds.
This victory for free speech was the result of the tremendous student support we got from students in Foss and also due to the phone calls to School administrators from thousands of supporters from around the country and world.
On 6 May, I had a meeting with Principal Schauss and informed her of SADW’s three key demands:
- The right to find out two weeks before the military recruiters are scheduled to come to our school. We also want the right to put up a table next to the recruiters with alternative points of view and information.
- The right to have weekly meetings in the school in order to build our student club.
- Permission for having a meeting on Tuesday, 10 May (that we had originally planned for May 5), including the guest speaker, Ty Moore, of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Principal Schauss agreed to the first two demands. We are confident that she will agree to the third one after she has seen the video we are going to show, Military Myths, which I plan to bring to her on Monday 9 May. She will also talk to the school board and go through the necessary procedures to have guest speaker Ty Moore allowed in to speak.
On the morning of 5 May, before school, I went to Principal Schauss’s office with a member of Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US), Jessica Pruitt, who has been helping out with the campaign. We asked Principal Schauss whether or not she was allowing the meeting to happen that afternoon. Mrs. Schauss, told us we could not hold the meeting because we had not filled out all the proper paperwork and did not have $1 million in insurance. Although we had a chartered student club willing to sponsor us, she still would not let us hold a meeting.
This is double standards because other student clubs don’t need to fill out paper work or get Principal Schauss’s approval to bring guests into our school. After not letting us explain ourselves for most of the meeting, Principal Schauss threw us out of her office. Jessica attempted to explain that she was not clear on the procedure when Principal Schauss yelled at us to exit the office. We immediately took that as another infringement on our rights as students.
That afternoon, we called a press conference. I spread the news through the entire school and passed out fliers urging students to meet in front of the school for a protest/press conference. A couple newspapers showed up, Tacoma News Tribune and the Tacoma Weekly. I was interviewed and gave a speech to the students who were there.
Principal Schauss attempted to break up the press conference in the middle of it by making an announcement over the intercom for everyone to leave. She was ignored and the meeting went on very well. We now have nearly 100 students signed up on our email list. The Tacoma News Tribune covered the event with a large article (new window).
Fighting for decent jobs and opportunities
I’ve also had a few confrontations with JROTC [the High School US military organisation] students who were quite angry with me, but I was able to explain myself. I found that most of the JROTC students are very open-minded and considerate. We are not against the JROTC students. We understand that most young people join the military because they don’t see any decent jobs or educational opportunities. We are against people being signed up to die for a war about oil and empire. We are fighting for more money for jobs and education so young people can chose an alternative to the military.
Hopefully, we will make peace with them and will be able to have meetings in the future with no problem. We are also offering the JROTC students the opportunity to come to any of our meetings to watch or to speak, if they request it.
Many people phoned and e-mailed Principal Sharon Schauss and Superintendent James Shoemake. Even the steelworkers’ national union office called me to guarantee 100 calls to my principal from their members, and more support if we needed it.
The entire school was aware of the hundreds of phone calls from all over the world.
I’d like to thank members of the local coalition for their help. I’d like to give a special thanks to Socialist Alternative, the organization I joined recently, for giving me help, support, advice, and all the resources I needed.
This has been a major success for our school and for Students’ Against the Draft and War.
Thanks to everyone who called in to support us