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Students Rally, March to Racine Unified School Board for Student Bill of Rights

A crowd of students left the Monday School Board meeting happy after the Racine Unified School Board agreed to set up a committee to study a 'Student Bill of Rights.' Part of YES (Youth Empowered in the Struggle) crafted the Bill and asked the school dist

A crowd of about 100 students and their teachers packed Monday’s school board meeting to voice their support for their Student Bill of Rights.

Before they made their way to the Racine Unified Administration building, the group rallied at the Racine Labor Center. Participants are part of .

A total of eleven Racine Unified students and teachers stressed the importance of having student voices as part of the decision-making process in the district. Nearly every student who spoke made reference to the work a mixed group of students from Milwaukee and Racine Unified put into the Student Bill of Rights. Milwaukee Public Schools had a similar hearing last month.

Sam Kohlmann, a student at J.I. Case High School, explained how cuts to public education have affected arts classes at Case.

“Our full drama department has been cut to three classes and students work on fundraising almost non-stop to fund productions and other arts activities,” he said.

Kohlmann also addressed the changes to collective bargaining and why that item is a part of the Student Bill of Rights.

“Our teachers should have the right to collectively bargain because teachers know best what’s needed in the classroom,” he said. “As students, we are your customers and we need to be heard for our schools to get better.”

Horlick French teacher Melissa Zeien said Unified is in the fight of its life and the adults here shouldn't quiet student voices.

"Students know what they want in their education and we should treat them as focused young adults," she said. "We should respect their reason. If we are united, we cannot lose."

Perhaps Cristal Sanchez, a junior at William Horlick High School, summed it up best when she sat at the microphone to address the Board.

“This bill is about our education, our schools and our funding,” she said. “You are our Board of Education, but you didn’t get our approval and we’ve had no input into the decisions that affect our education. We demand student power, the kind we’re showing here. I will not thank anyone for having my student voice heard loud and clear.”

School Board member Dennis Wiser recommended that the board examine the Student Bill of Rights at a work session before May 15. The Board voted unanimously to accept Wiser's recommendation. Once the vote was taken, the crowd broke into applause.

Ed Holladay April 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM
This kind of thing is upsetting to me as well. Although my kids are in elementary and the disruptions are not as severe as your kids are apparently experiencing. A friend of mine from church teaches at one of the middle schools. Her, and others, have done a fair job of explaining why much of the bad behavior exists. Essentially it comes down to laws that protect the kids, especially those deemed special ed. There is little the school or district can do to discipline these sort of kids. Some may even throw tantrums or assault teachers and still be back the next day. Also cuts to special education force many troublesome students to be "mainstreamed". They end up in classes of 30+ kids. They can not control themselves. It is a very disheartening situation for my friend. I think state law would have to be changed to deal with students like this. The school is even prevented from suspending these students beyond a few days a year. In all fairness, my kids still like school and get a great education. I worry for when they get to middle school.
Ed Holladay April 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I would pay more attention to the rise in single parent households during that time. The parents ought to be the ones teaching their kids much of what we expect the schools to.
C. Sanders April 18, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Perhaps the Student Bill of Rights should permit the students to organize, form their own union, pay dues and get a seat on the school board. Then the students can get a chance to do what the adults can't seem to do: 1. fire the current incompetent administration and replace them with high-performers with documented & measurable results in their CV. 2. work to marginalize the pro-union school board members that have single-handedly turned RUSD into a classic low-performing academic institution 3. each year fire the bottom 20% of the teaching staff and systematically replace them with the top 10% of the college graduating class. 4. increase the classroom size because there is NO study that concludes that academic achievement is a function of small class size [other than the junk put out by the unions]. Small class sizes increase the number of teachers and support staff which only serves to increase union dues and total cost for the entire system. 5. Finally, the students can move their success at the academic level on to Congress, which performs about as low as RUSD.
The Anti-Alinsky April 19, 2012 at 12:50 AM
“Our teachers should have the right to collectively bargain because teachers know best what’s needed in the classroom,” The key to any good education is a talented and dedicated teacher. Collective bargaining, as it existed before Act 10, made it impossible to get rid of bad and unenthusiastic teachers. Now when teachers don't perform they can be removed from the class room. When districts face layoffs they can now keep the best teachers rather than the most tenured. Student's have one right, the right to a quality education!
Ed Holladay April 20, 2012 at 03:04 AM
The anti-union stuff does not resonate with me. I am conservative, but I believe unions have done great things for this nation. These voucher schools, where unions don't exist, have not done any better: here or in Milwaukee. States without collective bargaining have not done better than Wisconsin. There are other issues attacking our schools.

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