Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Last week a very intriguing email was forwarded to me. The email stated that a student led  protest rally was going to be held in the parking lot of Ypsilanti High School Monday, June 13 at 5:30 pm. The email stated that the purpose of the Students Rights Matters Rally was to address several key issues and problems at the school. I was very impressed with the well-organized email and very impressed that students were taking it upon themselves to organize a rally to address school issues that they were concerned about and taking issue with. Listed below are the key matters listed in the email students are concerned with and feel need to be addressed by the school administration.

1. Find alternatives to to suspensions.
2. Push for the implementation of restorative practices done at YCHS.
3. Bring the community together to better the schools.
4. Need of a safer school environment.
5. Need for appropriate monitoring system.

I was very eager to cover the rally. I can't remember the last time I heard about a student led high school protest rally. As someone who strongly believes in student empowerment it made me feel good that Ypsilanti High students were coordinating the rally and planned on attending the 6:30 YCS board meeting at the nearby administration building on Packard.

I arrived to an empty parking lot at Ypsilanti High where the rally was to take place at 5:30.  Minutes later adult facilitator Anell Eccleston arrived as a representative of the Student Advocacy Center. A few fellow middle aged folks like me suddenly showed up also. Anell broke the news to the handful of us that the student rally had been cancelled. He explained that students had met with the principal and had decided along with Principal Snyder that the best thing would be for students with concerns to try and work things out internally with principal Snyder. I was looking forward to hearing what the STUDENTS had to say.

Soon more older folks arrived from within the local community and surrounding communities. Where were the students? Anyway, Low and behold, Ypsilanti High's new principal Scott Snyder suddenly appeared on the scene. Principal Snyder began explaining that he had met with student rally organizers earlier in the day and that they had decided that the rally should be cancelled, and that it would be best for all concerned if issues were worked out in meetings with him in school. Principal  Snyder then began to address the group of 17 or so older folks, including myself, who had come to the rally in hopes of hearing what Ypsi High students had to say. Snyder spoke at length about the many difficult challenges and issues being faced by Ypsilanti High School and the district as a whole. It was clear that Snyder is passionate and sincere in regard to his position as Ypsilanti High principal. The problem I have is that I came to hear about what was on the mind of students, and not the principal. Obviously, Ypsilanti High students have real concerns and issues that they wanted to express at a student led rally. I think the fact that these students wanted to not only have a rally, but also state their issues at the school board meeting that night is wonderful. As passionate as principal Snyder was in the parking lot circle of grown ups, I had come to hear students air their important grievances.

A couple of students actually did step into the circle of us oldsters, thank god. One of these students was Ypsilanti student Chevaun Johnson whose name was on a email that went out announcing the proposed student rally. I spoke with Chevaun in the parking lot. She told me that Ypsilanti High School students are being punished and suspended for long periods of time and that it is difficult for theses students to catch up with school work and get back on track when they return to school. She articulately explained that when students are suspended for 10 days they cannot bring their school work home. When they finally come back to school they are way behind and have to make up class work after school which can be difficult for many students to do.

Chevaun also told me that she is concerned about bus security. She stated that there are not enough monitors and that there is an issue with fights and arguments. According to the email sent out announcing the student rally, concerned students also want to see restorative practice re-implemented at the high school.

I left the Ypsilanti High School parking lot a little disappointed Monday because I wanted to hear the perspective of Ypsilanti High School students regarding conditions at the high school. I can hear a bunch of parents talk anytime I want while sitting in a plastic chair at the local Rutherford swimming pool. I was hoping to hear the students speak their minds.

In the end, if students feel that they can discuss and solve problems they see in the school by meeting in the principals office, that's great. I only hope that principal Snyder really listens to the concerns of these students and addresses them in a satisfactory way. I also hope that Principal Snyder didn't discourage the proposed student led rally for fear of bad PR for the school and district. I guess we'll see.

Jeff Brown
Purple Walrus Press.
Ypsilanti High principal Scott Snyder center speaking to group of obvious non-students in parking lot. Photo by PWP. 

No comments:

Post a Comment