LatinaLista — Since the uprising in Iran, there has been global admiration for the students who are leading the revolt against Iran’s regime. The students’ civil disobedience and bravery to stand up for what they believe is right is admirable and illustrates that they have learned their lessons well when it comes to instigating change through peaceful protests.
That their protests have been met with retaliatory violence has given everyone cause to pause and reevaluate Iran’s role in global politics.
John H. Liechty Middle School, the site of a civil disobedience protest by 65 middle school students.
Yet, as bad as the retaliation has been, it’s something that was not entirely unexpected. After all, a country that calls its leader the “Supreme Leader” doesn’t leave too much doubt that democracy is a dream ideal.
Yet that’s not the case in the United States, or it shouldn’t be.
From the time US students get their first class in civics, they learn about democracy and they’re exposed to how to work within the system to create change.
US students are taught that civil disobedience is much more desirable than riots in the streets to instigate change or show their displeasure with a certain policy. And as long as they respect the property rights of others, student protesters should not have to suffer any retaliatory actions.
Try telling that to 65 graduating middle school students who practiced a very sedate form of civil disobedience and got their diplomas withheld from them by the school principal.
Liechty Middle School is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. It serves students in 6th though 8th grades. The student body is 95 percent Latino.
“In 2008, John H. Liechty Middle School had 26 students for every full-time equivalent teacher. The California average is 21 students per full-time equivalent teacher.”
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why 65 students at the school decided they were going to show their support of their teachers in the wake of the school district’s planned cutbacks and layoffs by standing and turning their backs on Monica Garcia, the graduation speaker and LAUSD board president.
Needless to say, their actions did not go over very well with Principal Jeanette Stevens, who not only withheld the students’ diplomas, but is now reported to making students sign a letter of apology before they are allowed to receive their diplomas.
While the students’ actions could be construed as “bad manners,” it was clearly a protest to show that they stood in solidarity with their teachers.
In this new age where even the youngest child knows that he/she has rights, and students have taken the lead in organizing protests, whether it be Iran or the U.S., the actions of this principal send the wrong message to students who are practicing democracy.
Standing with their backs to the speaker is more desirable than having rocks thrown or insults shouted. To deny them their diplomas is denying them the basic right of every democratic society — regardless of their ages.
The mothers of the students who didn’t receive their diplomas had a press conference at the school yesterday where they demanded the principal apologize and issue the diplomas.
Unfortunately, the real issue at heart here has devolved now into a power struggle between the principal and the students.
Since there will be no winners in such a scenario, it would seem Ms. Garcia needs to make a return visit to the campus and do something that every democratic leader should endorse — sit down with both sides and come to a consensus.