Wednesday, February 2, 2011


By SBU Director Maria Fernandez

Schools in our community have historically been under-funded and under-resourced,
broken apart, and pieced back together without a clear plan to address the underlying
problem in education. The Department of Education is notorious for setting schools
up to fail and replacing many with charter schools. The needs of students, parents and
teachers have been ignored, excluding them from the decision making process. This year
25 schools, serving a disproportionate amount of English language learners and students
with special needs, are on the DOE list of schools to close. The majority of these schools
are located in low-income communities throughout city – 10 of the 25 schools are in the

To elevate the issue that underperforming schools need investment and not just closure,
a civil disobedience action “Fix Our Schools, Don’t Just Close Them” was organized on
Monday January 31st, the day before the first Panel for Education Policy vote on school
closings. Youth leaders from Sistas and Brothas United (SBU), along with members of
the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) and the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ),
organized a rally and press conference leading up to the civil disobedience in front of
Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan. Over 300 students, parents, city council members,
and other advocates for education reform attended the action. Students and parents from
closing and persistently low-achieving schools recognized real issues in their schools and
spoke passionately about the need to fix problems rather than closing schools.

Ahmani Croom, 17, Student Council Representative for John F. Kennedy High School and leader at Sistas and Brothas United (SBU) says, “The DOE has been using our school as a place to shove students in who have sadly, been pushed out of their schools. This has been a key method into making Kennedy a low performing high school year after year. Where will future English language learners
and special need students go, if John F. Kennedy High School no longer exists? This can
potentially increase dropout rate of students’ long term.”

At the closing of the press conference, 23 community members, including city council
members Jumaane Williams and Charles Barron, carried out the civil disobedience
action. Twenty-three brave people, including myself,  SBU Director Maria C. Fernandez and
leaders Rafael Pena, Juan Antigua, Miguel Rodriguez, and Tyrek Greene, linked arms
and blocked traffic in front of Tweed Courthouse, while hundreds of students and parents
chanted “Save Our Schools” and cheered them on from the sidewalk. The Tweed 23 were
arrested and held briefly at a local police precinct before a warm welcome from dozens of
students and parents who followed them to the precinct.

The action was the lead story in all the local news outlets:

New York 1: rally-against-school-closures

News 12 The Bronx: articleId=272548&position=1&news_type=news

Pix Channel 11 News:,0,5301765.story
NBC New York: Arrested-At-School-Shutdown-Protest-114985484.html

Univison 41: de-escuelas

New York Post: dept_of_ed_sets_up_many_schools_n7IKUYTlYKTfdMwh8q2N4H

El Diario La Prensa: escuela-236758-1.html#commentsBlock

Reuters: idUSTRE71010X20110201

The Epoch Times:

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