This Week in Education Organizing - March 30, 2018

Books, Not Guns

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is taking on the President, and politicians around the country who are trying to pass legislation allowing teachers and school staff to carry guns in school. It’s a misguided (at best) and dangerous idea.

AROS is launching a “Books, Not Guns” initiative, calling on parents, educators and students to sign our pledge of resistance, and to use this pledge to get others in your communities to speak out against guns in schools.

We’ll be hosting a national video call on Tuesday, April 3rd at 7:00 eastern time, to talk more about the initiative. Join us! RSVP HERE for the call. 

We will be encouraging folks to join local demonstrations and marches on April 20th, and to wave high the AROS Books, Not Guns graphic, which can be downloaded from the website. Join us!!

DeVos School Safety Commission Pledges Public Forums

Last week, President Trump responded to the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida by advocating that classroom teachers be allowed to carry guns. That’s a non-starter, and AROS is launching an effort to stop any state or local policy efforts to arm teachers (see above). Trump also created a Commission on School Safety and placed noted public school safety expert Betsy DeVos to chair it. DeVos immediately named three other cabinet members to serve on the commission. That’s right—no public school advocates, no educators, no one who has been impacted by violence or the rampant criminalization of Black and Brown schools across the country. No administrators, no safety experts. Reaction to the naming of the DeVos commission, and to the fact that its first meeting was a closed-door, no media affair, was swift and critical. In response, the Department of Education has announced that a series of public/community events will be held by the commission, to allow members to hear from “students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, school safety personnel, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, security specialists, and other related stakeholders.” will be critical to the commission’s work. 

The Department has pledged to publicize those opportunities for non-cabinet members to voice their opinions. Stay-tuned – we will shoot out information on any public forums or meetings that we hear about. The Department tends to announce these things within hours of their occurrence, but we’ll do our best. And…the Department is inviting “members of the public with recommendations on how to improve school safety” to submit them via (We’d love a copy of your messages to the Department – copy us at

March for Our Lives

Young people all over the country marched for gun control last weekend. We know that thousands of AROS members and subscribers probably attended marches. The power was awesome! 

In Boston, the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) joined 50,000 folks in a march from Madison Park High School to Boston Commons. Young people, parents, teachers and allies all came together to push for common sense gun policies and to make connections between suburban and urban gun violence. Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang came out to support the event. 

A few days before the march, on March 20th, BSAC, along with young people from the Boston Mayor's Youth Council and St. Stephens Church Youth Programs, joined high school students from across Boston to discuss gun violence with student leaders from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Students shared their experiences, talked about what gun violence looks like in communities in Boston, and finally discussed how to build collective power as young people to end this epidemic. 

Demanding Fairness from University of Pennsylvania

“Our City, Our Schools” – a Philadelphia coalition, took their struggle for more investment in their public schools to the University of Pennsylvania last week. The school, with an endowment larger than the gross national product of many of the world’s nations, sits in the middle of Philadelphia on valuable property, but doesn’t pay property taxes to the city because of its status as an educational institution. Our City, Our Schools is demanding that the city create a “payment in lieu of taxes,” or PILOT program, through which tax-exempt property holders contribute a percentage of their income to the city to help pay for city services they take advantage of, such as snowplowing, infrastructure and water/sewer services.

Parents, high school and college students and educators participated in the action. OCOS also released a report explaining their effort and how it could bring millions of dollars to the city’s schools. OCOS is working with the Mayor and City Council to enact a PILOT program, among other revenue-raising efforts. 

AROS Statement on passing of Linda Brown Thompson

The role of young people as a force for racial justice is historic, irrefutable and a part of a tradition of fighting for the rights of black, brown and politically disenfranchised communities. As we honor young leaders that are currently at the forefront of winning change on critical issues such as education justice, police accountability, and gun violence we must honor Linda Brown Thompson; the courageous leader that was at the center of the landmark fight fr racial justice —Brown v. the Board of Education— when she was in third grade.

Linda Brown Thompson’s family boldly filed suit against the school district in Topeka Kansas in 1951, when she was denied access to an all-white school within five blocks of her home. Her family was told that she had to attend a school that was twenty blocks away; a school that was segregated by state law. Her family’s case was later included in a historic lawsuit that led to a milestone victory. In a unanimous ruling in 1954, the Supreme court declared school segregation unconstitutional and a violation of the 14th Amendment. This was a major blow to the “separate but equal doctrine that had served as the basis for segregation of public facilities since the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson.”

Despite the valiant efforts of Linda Brown Thompson and the other families that were plaintiffs in the Brown v. the Board of Education, public education remains separate and profoundly unequal. In 2018, the promise of equitable education for black, brown, immigrant and low-income students has not been realized.

Just as Mrs. Thompson was told over 60 years ago, that she could not have access to a school within walking distance of her home, black children are denied access to public schools in their neighborhoods today; some traveling more than 3 miles to attend school. Tens of thousands of students live in what Jitu Brown has described as “school deserts,” because their districts have been devastated by failed policies such as mass school closures, the proliferation of charter schools, and other privatization schemes. As we continue to fight for racial justice within America’s education system, we are inspired by the dignity, courage and fortitude of Linda Brown Thompson. We must continue the fight!


Backpack Full of Cash showing in Camden, NJ. The free showing will be held on Saturday, March 31st at Camden County College, Camden Conference Center at 200 North Broadway in Camden. Doors open at 10:00. The film will be shown at 10:30, and will be followed with a discussion and lunch from noon to 2:00pm. For more information and to register for the event, send an email to

Journey for Justice National Conference! May 18-20 in Chicago. Join J4J members from across the country for a vibrant and engaging two days of discussion, planning and action! To register and learn more, visit the J4J website at

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