On August 10, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Houston organized a car caravan protest around the Houston Independent School District headquarters to demand a safe reopening of schools for students and teachers. HISD is the largest school district in Houston and the eighth-largest in the United States.
Texas leads the nation, along with California and Florida, in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Last week, Texas had 52,881 new cases and 1,514 deaths.
Across the nation, schools are reopening despite surging cases. Schools in Florida and Georgia that have reopened have seen hundreds of students quarantined, and nationwide that number exceeds 2,000.
Houstonians are demanding a repeat of this be prevented in their school districts.
Prior to the takeoff of the caravan, a group of about 20 people marched to the sidewalk directly in front of HISD headquarters where PSL organizer and educator Mustafa Al-Nomani took HISD to task for its “Building Houston’s Future, Right Now” slogan. “I cannot possibly see how sending children and their teachers to their death builds any immediate future,” said Al-Nomani. “To truly build Houston’s future, right now, you need to ensure that we return to school safely. Houston is strong and we have survived many crises. We can survive this one too. But not if we put our teachers, students and their families on the chopping block.”
PSL Houston Coordinating Committee member Zac Puryear shared a list of five immediate demands that should be put into place before schools in the district re-open. The demands are:
- No return to campuses until 14 days pass with no new infections in a county.
- Funding for job and paycheck protection, as well as adequate family care and sick leave.
- Continued food service for children, tools for learning such as a computer with free internet access, and other essential needs like counseling and health screenings.
- Funding for schools to reopen safely when data indicates it is safe to return, as well as assurances from school districts that CDC guidelines will be met when students and workers return to campus.
- Defund the police in schools and redirect the money to pay for more school counselors, social workers and nurses to provide services to students addressing systemic racism and the pandemic.
Teachers & families united for a safe reopening
Once these demands were made clear, it was time to start the caravan. About 15 cars, decorated with signs and paint that read “Protect Students’ and Workers’ Lives” and “Teachers & Families United for a Safe Reopening” circled around the HISD building. As they honked their horns, they made their presence known in the area by loudly chanting, “What do we demand? PPE for everyone! What do we demand? Defund police in our schools, reinvest in students! What do we demand? Testing and tracing for students and teachers!” Onlookers and passengers in other vehicles honked or raised their fists in solidarity. After about 30 minutes, the caravan returned to the starting destination where they vowed to continue carrying out these direct actions until all of the demands are met.
Protect students’ and workers’ lives!
Demand a safe reopening!