On Oct. 5, several hundred students from McKinley Technology High School in Northeast Washington, D.C., marched through the streets to protest the recent layoffs of teachers, counselors and other employees at their school. Joined by teachers and parents, the students led chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Rhee and Fenty have got to go” as they marched from their school at the D.C. Public Schools central office and then to the D.C. Council building.
Students protest teacher layoffs and budget cuts in Washington
The chants referred to D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who have carried out a systematic attack on the schools, including widespread school closures and layoffs.
The protest came on the heels of a series of student- and teacher-led protests that preceded the Oct. 2 layoffs of 388 DCPS employees, most of whom were teachers. DCPS officials claim the layoffs are necessary because of a $43.9 million gap in the 2010 budget.
As the laid-off teachers left the school on Oct. 2, McKinley students immediately began to protest. Metropolitan Police Department officers brutalized protesting students, including pushing and pepper spraying several students. Police arrested a 17-year-old student and then arrested a teacher who came to her defense. The student who shot video footage of the police brutality, which was broadcast on local television news, was later expelled from school.
These protests are part of a larger movement that has been growing in D.C. against the Fenty administration’s massive cuts to social services, including schools, child care facilities, mental health facilities, homeless services and more, as well as privatization and the give away of public property to developers.
Protests are expected to continue, including an Oct. 8 rally sponsored by Washington Teachers Union Local 6 and AFSCME Council 20.