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“We were holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’.”* November 8, 2007

Posted by Jeff in "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", "Voices Of Conflict".

* Which would’ve gotten them thrown out of a lot of the anti-Vietnam protests I was in … 😉

Expulsion vote delayed in Morton school district

Penalties called unfair by protesters at board meeting

By Joseph Ruzich
Special to the Chicago Tribune
2:42 PM CST, November 8, 2007

Hundreds of parents, students and anti-war and free speech advocates at a Morton High School District 201 board meeting Wednesday urged officials not to expel a group of students involved in a school sit-in last week to protest the Iraq war.

Parents and students allege that officials at Morton West High School are showing favoritism in dishing out discipline for some of the two dozen students involved in the protest that took place in the Berwyn school’s cafeteria last Thursday.

More than a dozen parents Wednesday in the Morton East auditorium in Cicero told the seven District 201 board members that students who play varsity athletics or have a higher grade point average were given less stringent penalties.

School officials cited some demonstrators with “gross disobedience and mob activity,” which make them eligible for suspensions and expulsion, said officials.

The audience booed board members after they decided to postpone a vote on the expulsions until the Dec. 5 board meeting although they could call a special meeting before next month.

“We need an answer tonight,” said Rita Maniotis, president of the Parent Teacher Organization. “These kids need to go back to school.” Maniotis said her daughter Barbara, a junior at the school, was involved in the protest and couldn’t understand why her daughter received a lesser punishment than others.

Many complained that tension over the Iraq war has increased at the school because military recruiters are targeting their children in the hallways and cafeteria at lunchtime. Some people said: “Expel the recruiters and not the students.” Many in the audience said that the recruiters target schools that have a large population of Latino and minority students.

A disabled Gulf War veteran, Cesar Ruvalcaba, who was in uniform, told board members that recruiters lie to students.

“Shame on the administrators who think receiving military money from recruiters is more important than the education of their students,” Ruvalcaba said. “I am 100-percent disabled and I learned the hard way that education, not carrying a machine gun, is the key to success. These kids should receive extra credit for speaking up, not expulsion.”

Supt. Ben Nowakowski said the disciplinary actions were taken because the students disrupted the educational process. “The cafeteria was required to be shut down and students were held in their classrooms, causing a major disturbance,” said Nowakowski. “It is the responsibility of the district to correct inappropriate behavior.

“The students are subject to the disciplinary process based on their individual roles.”

Morton West teacher Gale Holmlund said that her classroom was not disrupted by the protest.

“Yes, they should have consequences,” Holmlund said. “They did cut class. Maybe they should get a detention, a parent call or a five-day or 10-day suspension. But to give them an expulsion is not fair.”

Jonathon Acevedo, a student who faces expulsion, said officials are targeting him and other students for no reason. “We weren’t violent in anyway,” Acevedo said. We were holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

Acevedo’s aunt, Gladys Hansen-Guerra, said her nephew is being singled out because he’s an average student and a Latino. “The administration is giving harder punishments to students who won’t tell them who organized the protest,” said Hansen-Guerra. “It was a group effort. They are trying to offer leniency to those who point out the organizers. This isn’t a fascist state. They [school officials] aren’t the CIA. These are 16-year old kids.”

Also at the protest were several anti-war groups and freedom of speech advocates, including representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, an anti-war group from Northeastern Illinois University and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. All the groups praised the students and said they should be protected by their 1st Amendment rights.

Dr. Ben Nowakowski, Superintendent
District 201
2423 South Austin, Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 222-5702

Mr. J. Lucas, Principal
Morton West High School
2400 S. Home Ave.
Berwyn, IL 60402

Mr. Jeffry Pesek, President
Board of Education, District 201
3145 South 55th Avenue
Cicero, IL 60804

Sign a petition to urge the school system to reverse these absurd suspensions.

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