Students at more than 50 high schools across the United States are launching a Green New Deal for Schools campaign, with the hope of getting climate policies enacted that will require school districts to add climate education to their curriculums and plan for climate disasters. The ultimate goal of the initiative, organized by the youth climate justice organization Sunrise Movement, is for federal legislation to be enacted to implement climate education policies in schools nationwide. “The Green New Deal for Schools will transform public schools in America to face the climate crisis and ensure all students receive safe and high-quality education – no matter their zip code or the color of their skin,” said 17-year-old Adah Crandall.
On the last Friday of summer break, Stacy Davis Gates was in high spirits. At a back-to-school party in the parking lot of Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) headquarters, she bounced from one group to another, smiling as she posed for photos with alderpersons, union activists, parents and children. Davis Gates, who has been the president of the CTU for a little over a year, has good reason to be happy. In April, Brandon Johnson, a former middle school teacher and CTU organizer, was elected mayor. And Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Pedro Martinez, who often mentions that he’s a product of CPS, was also at the party, beaming and shaking hands.
The system of mass incarceration extends into the public education system. Known as the school-to-prison pipeline, policies that criminalize youth and their families, from the presence of police in schools to discriminatory and punitive practices that push youth to drop out, disproportionately affect communities of color. Kentucky State Rep. Keturah Herron joins Rattling the Bars to discuss the school-to-prison pipeline and how it can be tackled through state legislatures. Keturah Herron (D) represents District 42 in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Chicago, Illinois - For two years, teachers and staff in my workplace, George Washington High School, helped lead a community campaign to stop a hazardous industrial metal shredder, General Iron, from moving a few blocks from our school. Repeating a historic pattern, city officials facilitated General Iron’s planned move from the wealthy and white Lincoln Park neighborhood where it had operated for decades to the working-class, majority Latino Southeast Side. Our campaign won a major victory when we pressured Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health into denying the final operating permit for General Iron. It took years of mobilizing, street protest, and a month-long hunger strike to force the mayor to do the right thing. The experience of Chicago Teachers Union members in the #StopGeneralIron campaign highlights the power of union members when we stand shoulder to shoulder with environmental justice activists to demand safe living and working conditions.
Kids in the hallway smile more than they have in the past. Laughs are a little louder than they once were, teachers say. Student pride – and the graduation rate – are on the upswing at Santee’s public school. School leaders trace that success to a new effort to teach the tribe’s culture – the very thing that the education system, generations ago, banned Santee Dakota students from learning. Now, a new cultural program immerses students in the tribe’s language, history and customs for as long as an hour each school day. The program, embraced by most teachers and students, has boosted student attendance and helped the iSanti Community School in Niobrara hit a perfect, 100% graduation rate two years running, school leaders say. This move to embrace the Santee culture at the main school on the Santee Dakota Reservation hasn’t always gone smoothly.
It's fun, it's green and it's becoming more popular by the day. Barcelona's bike bus, or "bicibus", as the scheme is known locally, allows hundreds of children to cycle safely to school in a convoy, taking over entire streets in Spain's second largest city. The citizen-led project, supported by Barcelona City Council, began in March 2021 with one route in the Sarria neighbourhood. It now has 15 routes and has inspired similar schemes in the Scottish city of Glasgow and in Portland in the United States. Eight-year-old Lena Xirinacs joins the Eixemple route every Friday with her father, who is one of the volunteers ensuring that the children are safe on the road. "She wakes up with joy. I could use it as an excuse every day so that she jumps out of bed," Pablo Xirinacs said.
The world is adrift in the tides of hunger and desolation. It is difficult to think about education, or anything else, when your children are not able to eat. And yet, the sharp attack on education during this past decade forces us to consider the kind of future that young people will inherit. In 2018, before the pandemic, the United Nations calculated that 258 million, or one in six, school age children were out of school. By March 2020, the start of the pandemic, UNESCO estimated that 1.5 billion children and youth were affected by school closures; a staggering 91% of students worldwide had their education disrupted by the lockdowns. A new UN study released in June 2022 has found that the number of children experiencing distress in their education has nearly tripled since 2016, rising from 75 million to 222 million today.
Nearly two months after tests revealed tainted water coming from the faucets at more than a half dozen public schools, health officials say it’s still not safe to use the tap. The schools are all on the Navy’s water lines, which are contaminated with fuel from the Red Hill underground storage facility. There is no timeline for when the taps will be turned back on. To get by, school staff have been hauling bottles of water into classrooms and setting up sanitation stations so students can wash their hands. All the disruption has even the youngest keiki asking questions. “They asked me why did they put the tanks by the water. Didn’t they know it was poison. Who is going to save the water? And how can we save the water,” said kindergarten teacher Malia Rossetti.
Havana - “If you build it, they will come,” said Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams. In Cuba, they didn’t come. Dissidents on the island, with their U.S. backers, had been working feverishly for months to turn the unprecedented July 11 protests into a crescendo of government opposition on November 15. They built a formidable structure, with sophisticated social media (including an abundance of fake news), piles of cash from Cuban Americans and the U.S. government, and declarations of support from a bipartisan Congress and all the way up to the White House. Even after the Cuban government denied the protesters a permit on the grounds that they were part of a destabilization campaign led by the United States, anti-government forces insisted that they were undeterred and were ready to take the risks.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has signed executive orders barring transgender athletes from women’s sports in the state. “Only girls should play girls’ sports,” Noem tweeted on Monday. “Given the legislature’s failure to accept my proposed revisions to HB 1217, I am immediately signing two executive orders to address this issue: one to protect fairness in K-12 athletics, and another to do so in college athletics.” The executive orders direct the state’s Department of Education and Board of Regents to align its policies so only those who are biologically female can participate in women’s sports. Last week, Noem refused to sign the GOP bill barring transgender athletes from women’s sports.
London, UK - Closing the roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced polluting nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23 per cent and is strongly supported by parents, new research published by the Mayor Sadiq Khan reveals. To measure the air quality benefits of the new School Streets, 30 cutting-edge sensors from the Breathe London network were installed at 18 primary schools across Brent, Enfield and Lambeth to record nitrogen dioxide levels. The air quality monitoring project, funded by FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, was launched in September 2020 to give the most accurate indication yet of how the School Streets scheme is working. Since April 2020, almost 350 School Streets have been delivered across London with funding from Transport for London (TfL) and the boroughs to tackle children’s exposure to air pollution and improve their health.
In the third season of Black Lightning, the fictional Black city of Freeland was living under a military occupation by the ASA (the quasi governmental organization occupying Freeland). Not only did the city have heavily armed troopers patrolling the streets, but also had troopers patrolling the schools– detaining anyone they deemed a threat – using violence if necessary. In episode four, students are in a classroom discussing similar military occupations in multiple countries around the world and their harmful effects on the people being occupied. Some students agree, but then others claim the ASA occupying their city might be a good thing, suggesting that the ASA’s presence comes with safety. As they are discussing, the ASA comes into the classroom to detain (and abduct) a student named Tavon, under the suspicion of having powers.
Since the end of the draft in 1973, the U.S. has relied on an all-volunteer service to maintain its 1.3 million-member global police force. Over the years the military has used a number of different recruitment methods, but the target audience has always been the same: high schoolers. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 significantly changed how military recruiters reach teenagers. Section 9528 mandates public high schools give military recruiters the same access to students that college recruiters get, including their personal contact information. Schools became gold mines for recruiting “future soldiers.” Recruiters at my high school in Fairfax County, Virginia always set up shop in the cafeteria. For the next two hours, they would sit through the four different lunch periods and give their spiel to whoever was curious enough to stop at their station.
Within weeks, the reopening of schools across the United States has already become a complete catastrophe. Outside of the mobilization of educators, parents and the broader working class to halt this homicidal policy, there will be rapid acceleration of the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease throughout every region of the country. Because no government agency at the local, state or federal level is systematically tracking work-related COVID-19 cases and deaths, Kansas teacher Alisha Morris took it upon herself to begin compiling this data in a spreadsheet. The list, which is now curated by roughly 35 people, has been shared in the dozens of Facebook groups that have been set up to oppose the unsafe reopening of schools and has been viewed tens of thousands of times by educators, parents and students.
An Arizona school district that ignored state safety guidelines and voted to begin in-person learning on Aug. 17 has had to cancel classes after staff said it was unsafe to return and called in sick. Greater Phoenix’s J.O. Combs Unified School District canceled all instruction for Monday due to “insufficient staffing,” days after its board disregarded state benchmarks on when students can safely return to classes during the pandemic. The “sick out” underlined the difficulties in returning to in-person learning in the United States after schools in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama closed this week as students and staff were infected with COVID-19 or forced to self-isolate from exposure.