Chicago Parents Hunger-Striking Over a Closed School

'We have to starve ourselves to have our voices heard,' says protest leader
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2015 10:18 AM CDT
Updated Aug 25, 2015 10:54 AM CDT
Chicago Parents Hunger Striking Over a Closed School
Dyett High School, as seen in May 2015.   (Wikimedia)

Protesters in Chicago say they haven't eaten in eight days and will continue their hunger strike until a proposal to turn a former high school into a new "green tech" school is accepted. For years, members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School have fought to preserve the school, which was to close after its last class of 13 students graduated in June, before Chicago Public Schools decided to open it under a new name. Pairing with education experts at the University of Illinois, the coalition has now proposed turning it into the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, reports DNAinfo. But that's only one of three ideas on the table: Not-for-profit group Little Black Pearl hopes to turn the school into an art and design academy, while a principal brought in to phase out Dyett wants to see an athletic school. CPS says it will make a decision in September.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports protesters have asked Little Black Pearl to withdraw its proposal, noting just 5% of the organization's students met or exceeded state standards last school year. "In what sane society do they actually get a school?" asks protest leader Jitu Brown. Yet Little Black Pearl's founder has refused to pull out. "If we're selected, we're going to bring forth everything we can to provide a great opportunity to children in that school, and if we're not selected we're going to support whoever is selected," she says. Protesters argue racism is alive and well in the debate, noting CPS leaders initially ignored the coalition's proposal while calling for additional, inferior plans. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson joined the hunger strike last week. "We have to starve ourselves to have our voices heard," but "we're undeterred," Brown says. "We'll be here until we get this school." (Chicago has closed many more schools, too.)

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