Please accept this letter informing you of the mass out-of-school suspensions of 40 students from Austin Polytech Academy High School (APA), 231 N. Pine. 

Their suspensions ranged from two to 10 school days.

The 40 APA students were suspended by the school’s current interim Principal, Fabby Williams, for participating in a student organized sit-in of a classroom. The sit-in was organized by the students in response to Mr. Williams’ decision to fire seven of the school’s teachers by giving them each an “unsatisfactory” evaluation. 

Any new teacher hired by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) must serve a three-year probationary period before they earn tenure. If the probationary teacher is evaluated as unsatisfactory within those three years, that teacher is in fact “fired” by CPS and can never work for the school system. 

The seven teachers earned mostly good to excellent evaluations prior to Mr. William’s arrival. The students, parents, and community were shocked by his decision. As a result, the students first organized a peaceful walkout on May 16. They all returned to their classes. On May 19, the students staged a peaceful sit-in inside the classroom of a fired teacher. On May 20, Mr. Williams issued the mass suspensions. 

We all should be outraged that the principal would issue any out-of-school suspensions for the students’ peaceful actions. Alternative punishment, such as in-school suspensions and or detention should have been explored. During the day, schools are the safest place for our children, not the streets, where Mr. William had no problem sending them. The suspended students are currently meeting at the Austin Library on Central and Race from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. They are being tutored by several dedicated APA teachers who are determined to minimize the loss of instructional time to those students-many are seniors scheduled to graduate-and to keep them from hanging out in the streets.

I ask that you stop by the Austin Library and show your support for our children. I also asked that you phone the new CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Jean Claude Brizard (773-553-1000) and tell him to reinstate the students and expunge the discipline consequences from their records. 

Dwayne Truss