Contributed By The 411 News
Shouts of ‘no water, no peace’ and ‘we want better’ rang from West Side Leadership Academy students who held a lunch hour protest Thursday morning, adding student voices to what needs attending to in the Gary public school district.
One of the organizers, Trinity Barnes, a West Side senior said students walked out to protest conditions in the school. “We get one 8 oz. bottle of water at lunch hour. Our bathrooms don’t have toilet tissue and soap. And there are bathroom stalls without doors.”
A student stepping up to the microphone during the walkout pointed to the new football field and said, “but look on the inside at our bathrooms.”
Another complained about leaking and falling ceiling tiles.
The protest surprised school officials. School district Manager Paige McNulty responded with a statement. “Today’s protest at WSLA was organized by a small group of community members seeking to express their concerns about facility updates. This activity is not only disruptive but creates an unsafe environment by encouraging students to walk out of the building without formal dismissal.”
“Community members” Manager McNulty may have been referring to were present during the lunch hour demonstration and spoke to the students. Gary School Advisory Board Member Robert Buggs, Nikki Byrd, Akili Shakur, and Jackie Lee make up an informal group of Gary citizens who’ve protested school district policies.
Gary Teachers Union President GlenEva Dunham said she received calls that day from West Side teachers. “I was told teachers were asked to go to the building doors and prevent students from leaving. I told teachers they should only go in the hallways and not put a hand on any student.”
Thursday night, Barnes was on WLTH radio with host LaVetta Sparks-Wade pushing back. “They don’t think we’re smart enough to do this on our own. The protest was organized by me and 2 other seniors.”
Barnes also said, “We had a Zoom call with them. The only thing they gave us was some poster board.”
The next lunch hour protest scheduled for March 10 may be rescheduled depending on talks with district officials, Barnes said.
Statement from the Gary Community School Corporation:
“Today’s protest at WSLA was organizewwd by a small group of community members seeking to express their concerns about facility updates. While we understand and recognize that they have the right to assemble, many of our students are in the process of taking the SAT, which is one of the most important days of their academic careers. It is unfortunate that organizers did not take this into consideration. This activity is not only disruptive but creates an unsafe environment by encouraging students to walk out of the building without formal dismissal.w
Further, the protesters are not fully informed of the tens of millions of dollars in upgrades being made at WSLA and all schools throughout the District. We continue to invite stakeholders to the table as we tackle challenges together. We all want what’s best for our students. As is customary, the District is transparent with sharing information and employs various communication channels to ensure that our school community is aware of our steady progress with facility upgrades. Facility improvement plans can be found on our website at Garyschools.org. ” – Dr. Paige McNulty, Manager GCSC