From an article published Wednesday, June 8, 2011 on the Progressive Labor Party web site
BROOKLYN, NY May 26 — More than one hundred students, teachers, and parents held a militant rally outside Clara Barton High School to fight an attack against two communist teachers. The protest was sparked by the principal launching an investigation against four teachers since last fall.
The teachers subsequently received a letter from the Special Commissioner of Investigation that detailed their political activities over the last several years and concluded that they had “recruited students to attend an unauthorized trip to [an anti-budget-cut] rally in Washington, D.C.” The letter concluded, “It is the recommendation of this office that appropriate disciplinary action be taken against….” The teachers are still waiting for a decision on this disciplinary action, which was supposed to be handed down by May 27.
The day before the decision was due, the Department of Education (DoE) and its accomplices drew a resounding response at the rally. The protestors demanded an end to the investigation, and that no charges be lodged against these two teachers. Chants of “Fight back!” and “Education, not investigation!” rang out loud and clear. A student and a teacher gave excellent speeches attacking the DOE’s racist and fascist methods (see below).
When the cops were called and stopped the use of our bullhorn, the picketers continued without it. The head of the security lied to students, telling them they had to move away from the school. When the crowd heard this, they started chanting “The principal is a liar, we’ll set his ass on fire!” As they booed the security chief, he quickly ran back inside the school. The rally ended on a high note, with everyone marching through the neighborhood. The community was enthusiastic at the sight of young and old, black, Latino and white marching together!
A Fascist Culture of Investigations
The initial DOE investigation began in 2007, two years after the Katrina disaster, when Clara Barton teachers and students went to New Orleans over winter and summer vacations to help clean up the Ninth Ward, to organize against the racism of various government agencies, and to fight for communism. Racist principal Forman had tried to prevent these activities. He sent a letter to every parent to warn that trips to New Orleans were not school-approved. But he wasn’t able to stop it.
In 2009, another Clara Barton contingent was among many PL’ers and friends who traveled to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid against slavery. Again, racist pig Forman warned of “disciplinary action” if teachers accompanied their students.
Once again, Threats Were Ineffective
Last October, members of the Clara Barton community boarded a UFT-sponsored bus and joined tens of thousands in Washington, D.C., to rally against the Tea Party. Thousands of CHALLENGEs were distributed throughout the day. Although the rally had been designed to win workers and students to the Democratic Party, Progressive Labor Party members organized our own march within the big rally. We chanted many anti-racist and pro-communist slogans.
On the Monday following the Saturday rally, the assistant principal of security questioned some students as they entered the school. One was visibly carrying a copy of CHALLENGE. This led to an interrogation by the principal and assistant principal, with students asked to give up names of others who attended the rally. Then their parents were called. The parents were angry that their children had been intimidated and harassed by these creeps. In every case, the parents had either attended the rally themselves or given their signed permission for their children to go. They all knew that it was not a school-sanctioned trip. “My weekend, my business” became the rallying cry.
After the principal relayed this development to the DOE’s Special Commissioner of Investigations, all the students and parents were called into the school again. The four teachers, who attended the rally, were also called in. None of them had anything to say to these DOE bureaucrats.
PLP Members Fight Racism!
Meanwhile, Clara Barton is becoming more a jail than a school. The latest punitive policy from the dean’s office is detention, which is now imposed for the most trivial violations of the dress code. But detention has nothing to do with education. It’s an instrument of political control and intimidation.
Our school reflects the extreme racism built into the capitalist system. Serving mainly black and Latino students, it receives less funding from the DOE than the “specialized” schools which have high populations of white and Asian students. Clara Barton’s large Haitian, bilingual population receives the worst treatment of all. Their classes are often taught by teachers who lack certification in the subject area. Students are treated like criminals by the deans and security. It is no coincidence that despicable racist pig Forman has targeted communists who fight these racist attacks.
Communism is Our Weapon Against the Bosses
It’s not surprising that CHALLENGE was mentioned specifically in the warning letter given to Clara Barton students, or that the principal has singled out two teachers who are members of PLP.
Over the last several years, CHALLENGE has been distributed widely in the school, often 200 or more per issue. Teacher-student study groups meet regularly. The Party here has grown steadily.
Communists are dedicated to the liberation of the working class. The DOE bosses hope that they can frighten students or staff members from following our leadership, but this strategy has proven a failure so far. From Paul Robeson to W.E.B. DuBois, communists have always been attacked by the system. At Clara Barton, we have tried to point out that the administration wants us out of the school because we are outspoken fighters against racism and inequality.
Students and Parents Respond the Right Way!
The May 26 rally resulted from our strong and immediate response to the investigators’ attack. But it couldn’t have succeeded without years of organizing and support from our ties with parents at the school.
The DOE demanded “disciplinary action.” We responded right back. “Education, Not Investigation.” stickers went up all over the school. Flyers and CHALLENGEs were distributed outside the school. Students wrote their own flyer and started a petition inside the school.
On the day of the rally, some students escorted teachers Beckerman and Salak out of the building in a show of solidarity! The union held chapter meetings in support; the chapter leader even announced the protest on the school’s PA system. And several hundred CHALLENGEs were in people’s hands.
Although fascist despicable racist pig Principal Forman promised that the “disciplinary action” would come by May 27, there has been silence ever since. This is typical of the DOE’s Gestapo tactics. Maybe they are waiting for the last day of school, or the summer — they like to do their dirty work when no one is around. Maybe we put a little scare into them. They should be scared, because we are not done fighting back! After all, the fight for a communist world is a lifetime struggle. We need to toughen up, not only for this fight but for the many more coming.