"I was arrested for disturbing the peace at a Detroit School Board Meeting for allegedly throwing a grape at Joyce Hayes-Giles, a school board member," said Agnes Hitchcock, organizer of the Call 'Em-Out Coalition in Detroit, Michigan. The organization works to hold elected officials accountable. Giles sought to have Hitchcock charged with assault. She claimed to have been injured. But Hitchcock, asks, "How are you going to go to court and say someone tried to murder or assault you with a grape? I am asking for a jury trial. And, I'm requesting that the trial be in the Detroit, and that I have a jury of my peers."
The School Board meeting was voting to close 34 public schools in Detroit. This is in addition to the more than 25 schools that have already been closed. Hitchcock says, "In an effort to turn Detroit into a Charter School Capitol, they are closing Detroit Public Schools. The mayor said during his State of the City Address that he was working on opening 45 charter and private schools."
"They are already selling the public school buildings -- renting them out for $500 a crack. When you rent a public school building out to an individual, who's to say they won't open a charter school? If you close a public school and open a charter school in the same building, the parents for convenience will have the children in that school. Charter Schools are businesses supported by state education funds that would normally go to public schools. So if you keep doing this, it weakens the public school system," she explained. "Charter schools are for-profit schools and most don't have libraries, or sports teams. Scholarship opportunities are almost non-existent. In testing they fare worse than public schools," said Hitchcock.
"When a school board representative tries to get someone charged with a felonious assault and battery charge -- when you go to that extreme -- it's a piling on of retribution," said Marian Kramer, from the Michigan Welfare Rights Union. "First they gave Agnes a $3500 blight ticket. This was after the city halted bulk pick up! That is piling on and targeting. Agnes is being targeted for being an activist. It is amazing how they are using her as a springboard on everyone else that might confront their authority. They are making an example of her."
The Detroit school closures have sparked an effort to confront the School Board. "A host of people are signing up to run for the Detroit Board of Education," said Marian Kramer. "One of the schools is Northern High School, the school that back in the 1960's saw one of the first student walkouts. Ironically, it was where the first Freedom Schools in the city of Detroit were set up."
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