By Rachel Popa
After a round of budget cuts nearly forced Dyett High School to close its doors permanently, a plan was proposed to turn the high school into an open enrollment arts school. However, protesters who wanted Dyett to become a school focused on green energy technology and global leadership were disappointed with the plan. A hunger strike has been in effect since Aug. 17 against the Chicago Board of Education in which protesters were trying to convince the board to turn Dyett into a science based school, which would better serve the community, according to the Huffington Post.
One of the protesters, Jitu Brown, was disappointed with the school board’s decision. “Once again, [Chicago Public Schools] has demonstrated that they don’t respect the community’s voice,” he said. “We did not ask for an arts center.”
CEO of Chicago Public Schools(CPS) Forrest Claypool, made a statement about the decision, saying, “Ultimately, the goal was to do what was right for the children.”
Brown and the protesters aren’t giving up just yet. “Until these demands are met, we will be on hunger strike,” Brown said.
Four protesters have been hospitalized since the beginning of the strike, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association commented on the protests, saying, “Sometimes you have to put your own health on the line to get the attention of the world.”
“The mayor appreciates there are strong feelings about Dyett, and he understands there is a desire for a quick resolution about its future, however what’s most important is the right decision,” a statement from mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said.
Two of the hunger strikers went to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to deliver a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, formerly head of Chicago Public Schools. The purpose of the letter was to ask Duncan for his support in the decision to keep Dyett open as a science school. The letter reads, “We call on you to act swiftly to avert the further harm that can befall the 12 parents and community leaders from Bronzeville and allies from communities across Chicago who have been on a hunger strike for 17 days to call out the injustice suffered at the hands of CPS and the appointed Board of Education and to demand the adoption of the Global Leadership and Green Technology plan for Dyett.”
Despite the protester’s efforts, the Chicago Board of Education is calling the decision to make Dyett an art school a victory for both sides.
“We hope that they will recognize that this is a win for everybody,” Claypool said. “It may not be the green technology global leadership academy that they supported and that they were going to run, but it is, I think, something that really represents the will of the community.”