Breaking through silence

Teachers and students walk out to protest against SUHSD budget crises effects

Yealin Lee

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On March 6 at Bonita Vista High (BVH) teachers line up on the sidewalk to demonstrate their discontent with SUHSD’s decisions to lay off 237 teachers and administrators within the district. On that day, many other BVH teachers stood near the road to create more awareness in the community.

The alarming honk of cars passing by Bonita Vista High filled the early Friday morning of March 6 in recognition and sympathy of the district-wide protest at BVH where teachers and staff showed off their posters and signs highlighting their displeasure with the Sweetwater Union High School District’s (SUHSD) newly passed resolution that eliminated 237 positions for the 20202021 school year. Meanwhile, during the sixth period of the same day, students coordinated a similar event in regard to the same cause. Speeches filled the quad from various students. Students from different grade levels had the opportunity to come up to the podium and voice their concerns against the district’s recent decisions. 

“I am protesting against the ‘solution’ that the district is imposing on students, which will punish students, punish teachers, punish all faculty that work together to make the district what it is. It’s so unfair to strip us away from our identity, from our options, from everything that we have learned just through this ‘solution’ involving money that we did not throw away,” junior who spoke at the student walkout, Alicia Verdugo said.

SUHSD’s newly implemented resolution did not receive a positive reaction from teachers and students. According to BVH Principal Roman Del Rosario Ed.D., several people reacted with mixed feelings, ranging from confusion to frustration and even anger because of SUHSD’s recent decisions.

Do you think it’s okay when they take away our money, our teachers, our resources. How are we going to be successful?”

— sophomore Bibiana Martinez

“I was very disheartened. All the enthusiasm that you have every morning as a teacher when you wake up and you go to work you feel like you matter, and that first instant when the board passed the resolution, I suddenly felt like we don’t matter,” Advanced Placement (AP) United States (US) History teacher Don Dumas said. 

Many concerned students and staff are already disappointed with SUHSD’s recently passed resolutions. However, many more are worried about how SUHSD’s actions will affect the students in the school whom they claim to be “their top priority.” According to Del Rosario Ed.D., tools and resources for students such as the Learning Center are going to be cut, which sets a large obstacle for students who want to make up credits or get caught up in class. 

“There is a current proposal to eliminate our learning center and librarian position. We have 2,400 students, we have Lenovo laptops in addition to the library and the computer lab we have close to 10 million dollars in textbooks. Not having a trained teacher-librarian is going to have a huge impact,” Del Rosario Ed.D. said. “We are not like a private school, and I love that about [my] job that we are everyone’s school and that includes students who have had challenges whether they are personal challenges. Whatever that challenge has led to them getting behind in credits we have a program to support those students.”

According to the Vice President of the Sweetwater Education Association (SEA) the teacher’s union and a teacher on special assignments at the SUHSD office, Cesar Fernandez, believes it is necessary for students to participate in these types of demonstrations in order to express their concerns. He goes on to explain that it would be very difficult for the BVH staff and students to get a solution unless our voices are heard.

“Students have always led the way through modern history. Walkouts are an example since the late 60s and up until now. [Students] have always been the catalyst for change, so student walkouts are 100 percent necessary,” Fernandez said.

Student and teacher walkouts that occurred at BVH symbolizes that a common goal unifies a community. These demonstrations also emphasize the significance of using one’s voice and help spark change for the better. 

“We all [need to] understand the importance of being union members an injury to one is an injury to all. And this [teacher walkout] is an example of that, we are leading by example for our students who would one day go out in the world likely be in unions, be in leadership positions, and we want to show them that it’s okay to stand up for yourself and what you believe in,” Dumas said.