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GRPS Student opposition grows

April 20, 2010

Last night the Grand Rapids School Board cancelled their Monday meeting because too many people showed up at the Franklin Street Campus. The Grand Rapids Press reported that parents, students and teachers came to voice their opposition to the proposed educational changes.

The front-page story came with a headline that read, “Meeting cancelled; debate simmers,” with a subheading that said, “School Board refuses to discuss course changes with large, angry crowd.” The online version of the story says that the “meeting turned ugly.”

The Press story did point out the exchange between parents, teachers and some school board members. When it was announced that the meeting would be cancelled because of “overcapacity,” some people voiced their opposition. GRPS Board Chair Catherine Mueller “reminded the crowd that they are examples to children.” Such a comment did not endear Mrs. Mueller to the crowd, which began a chant of “Vote The Out.”

While the Press coverage did reflect an engaged community, they chose to frame the story around conflict instead of highlight the passion and organizing that went in to turning out 250 people for a school board meeting.

The GRPS Student Union can take a great deal of credit for this organizing, which you would not know from the Press article. The only student cited in the story was from City High and her comments do not give any indication that she represented an organized opposition to school administration policies.

A subsequent Press article does state that the meeting is rescheduled for next Monday at 6:30pm at Ottawa Hills High School, but there is no sense of what the organized opposition is protesting. The follow up Press article just states, “Staff, parents and students were hoping to engage the board on proposed changes in instruction.

We received a message from the GRPS Student Union stating that they are in the process of “making plans to host a district-wide Walk Out, where students would walk out of their fourth hour and join their parents in a Sit-In in front of the school at every high school in the district. This idea is still in the planning stage but we are confident that it will happen during next month May.”

It seems clear that the students and parents are organized and will challenge the proposed changes of the school administration. Unfortunately, the local commercial news agencies are not reporting this important aspect of the story.

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