Trump Uses Excessive Force to Re-Open Schools: Parents, Communities and Teachers RESIST!

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To US President Donald Trump,

As parents, students, educators, and community organizations deeply invested in America’s public schools, we are mortified by your administration’s insistence on forcing children into school buildings in September without a comprehensive plan to ensure their safety. The COVID pandemic has claimed the lives of over 140,000 people in the United States - disproportionately impacting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Sadly, it feels as if we are on our own. Your administration demonstrates a lack of political will (and we fear, the capacity), to address the disparate death toll experienced by our communities due to COVID-19. Every day your administration ignores science and repeats bizarre talking points in efforts to message us past this pandemic; the American public is in imminent danger. With the recent outbreak, we are witnessing an undeniable surge in the numbers of hospitalized young people (together with a surge in infections and deaths among the general population too). Yet, your administration pats itself on the back while Americans die. Additionally, school facilities in many of our communities are deteriorating, and politicians’ decision to privatize custodial services have left many of our school buildings filthy and unsanitary.

The US Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and several U.S. governors are cutting education funding at a time when support should be doubled to enable schools to meet the needs of traumatized children upon their return; children who have experienced the deaths of family members, neighbors and friends, and to ensure that schools can reopen in a safe, healthy, equitable and racially just way. This is madness. Our children, teachers and their families will not be your guinea pigs, used as political fodder and marched from our homes to the morgue.

The Journey for Justice Alliance is comprised of predominantly Black- and Brown-led grassroots, membership-based community organizations in over 30 cities across the United States. We live in the neighborhoods where decades of systemic inequity were ignored, and our schools were closed – harming the education of our children. We are exhausted, but unbowed. Together with our numerous allies across the country, we demand that schools are opened safely and equitably, and should commence only if the following basic conditions are met:

1. Zero COVID-19 positive cases in the relevant school district for at least 14 consecutive days before considering reopening schools.
2. All air conditioning and ventilation units must be fully functional and meet CDC guidelines before schools reopen.
3. School transportation systems (school buses, vans, etc.) must be sanitized before and after use daily according to CDC guidelines and should cater for social distancing guidelines.
4. We demand a teacher to student ratio of 1:10, and socially distant learning available to every student.
5. PPE and regular COVID testing (with immediate results) for everyone in the school building with a steady and adequate supply of masks and hand sanitizer for every class and office. Clear and well-communicated quarantine and treatment protocols in place when a student tests positive.
6. Students with special needs and English Language Learners (ELL) cannot be abandoned in this moment. Allocate resources to provide districts with the funding to effectively meet the needs of these students.
7. Utilize unionized custodial staff to sanitize school buildings on a regular basis. Privatized sanitation companies, such as Aramark, have performed poorly in several school districts before the COVID Pandemic, and cannot be trusted in this moment. CDC-approved sanitation grade products, such as Lysol, must be available for every classroom and office.
8. A school nurse and mental health specialist should be provided for every 100 students, in every school.
9. Any school with over 70% free and reduced lunch, must receive the funding to become a sustainable community school, an evidence-based school improvement model where the local community can apply school resources to address local needs.
10. Elimination of ALL punitive standardized testing. Children must be able to engage in project-based learning, complete portfolio assessments and other growth evaluation systems as opposed to being stigmatized by a model that is structurally racist and ineffective in gauging student knowledge and development.
11. Eliminate police from public schools. Use the millions of dollars allocated for school resource officers/school police to reduce the student to counselor ratio to 50:1. In school districts like Chicago, the ratio is 650:1!
12. Eliminate school suspensions and expulsions with a commitment to restorative justice school culture and student leadership development.
13. If parents opt out of sending their children to school, virtual learning in the public-school system must be provided, without penalty to the student.
14. Free laptops and internet access must be made available for every public-school student.
15. The Federal government must provide a massive injection of funding for state and local governments to stabilize and increase education funding to meet the above-mentioned conditions. This can be funded through a billionaire and millionaires’ tax and taxing Wall street.
16. Support for our communities and families, including moratorium on evictions/foreclosures, providing direct cash assistance to those not able to work or who are unemployed, and other critical social needs

President Trump, the policies emanating from your administration have largely left communities to fend for themselves. Our members across the United States are feeding the hungry and distributing tens of thousands of bags of food and household products to seniors and community members through our “Justice Serves” initiative. Together with our allies, we are more than ready to contribute to our children’s safe and equitable return to school when these demands are met. But we will accept nothing less.

We believe that the first prerequisite of effective leadership is the ability to respect the humanity of those most impacted by injustice. This message, while directed at President Trump is also for every local and federal elected official, regardless of party. You must be able to hear more than your own voice. With these demands, we are drawing a line in the sand. Which side are you on?

CC: Joe Biden
CC: Members of Congress,

Signed and endorsed by:

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (Chicago)                              

Lugenia Burns Hope Center (Chicago)

Action NOW (Chicago)                                                                                    

Mt. Carmel MB Church (Chicago)

Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere (Chicago)                               

Northside Action for Justice (Chicago)

Youth Opposed to Violence Everywhere (Chicago)                                   

People for Community Recovery (Chicago)

Logan Square Neighborhood Association (Chicago)                                 

Parents for Teachers (Chicago)

Cincinnati Education Justice Coalition (Cincinnati)                                      

Camden Parent’s Union (Camden, NJ)

Camden Student’s Union (Camden, NJ)                                                        

Parents Unified for Local School Education (Newark)

Paterson Education Fund (Paterson, NJ)                                                   

Paterson Education Organizing Committee (Paterson, NJ)

Parent Advocates for Children’s Education (Jersey City, NJ)                     

Oakland Public Education Network (Oakland)

Breaking our Chains (Denver)                                                                          

Padres y Jóvenes Unidos (Denver)

Step Up Louisiana (Baton Rouge, New Orleans)                                          

Project South (Atlanta)

Citizens f/Better Schools & Sustainable Communities (Birmingham)       

Texas Organizing Project (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio)

Black Lives Matter Houston                                                                              

Grassroots Arkansas (Little Rock)

Schools and Communities United (Milwaukee)                                            

Racial Justice Now (Dayton)

Detroit LIFE Organization (Detroit)                                                                

Kansas Justice Advocates (Wichita)

Keep the Vote, No Takeover (Detroit)                                                             

Baltimore Algebra Project (Baltimore)

One Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh)                                                                    

Parents on the Move (Boston)

Fannie Lou Hamer Center for Change (Euphora MS)                                

Institute for Democratic Education in America (Jackson MS)

Southern Echo (Mississippi)                                                                             

Alliance for Quality Education (New York State)    

Coalition for Education Justice (Brooklyn, NY)                                

Youth United for Change (Philadelphia)

Philadelphia Student Union ()                                                               

Agitarte (San Juan, PR)

Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico (San Juan, PR)                       

Advancement Project (National)

Network for Public Education (National)                                              

Pueblo NOLA Village (New Orleans)

Badass Teachers Association (National)                                               

Parents Supporting Parents (New York)

Alderman Byron Sigcho (Chicago)                                                         

Alderman Jeanette Taylor (Chicago)

Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago)                                                    

Raise Your Hand Illinois (Chicago)

Chicago Teachers Union (Chicago)                                                        

Cook County College Teachers Union (Illinois)

Rev. Kevil Sauls, Black Alliance f/Just Immigration (Los Angeles)        

Elana Needle, New York University

National Educators United (National)                                                   

Center for Popular Democracy (National)

Alliance for Education Justice (National)                                              

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA)

Unity Community Center of South Jersey                                             

Community Doulas of South Jersey

Alliance for Education Justice (National)                                              

Black Lives Matter at School (National)

Rethinking Schools (National)

OLÉ (Organizers in the Land of Enchantment), Albuquerque, NM

Detroit Action= (Detroit)

482 Forward (Detroit)

Organize Florida (Florida)

Rights and Democracy (NH, VT)

Urban Youth Collaborative (NYC)

Make the Road New York (NY)

Action NC (NC)

Act Minnesota (MN)

CUNY Rising Alliance (NY)

Flint Rising (MI)

SPACES in Action (DC)

Maryland Communities United (MD)