June 23, 2009

8th Grade Students Denied Diplomas for Protesting Teacher Layoffs

To: Mónica García
President of LAUSD Board
Board District 2
CC: LASUD Board of Education
CC: Los Angeles Times

I am writing on behalf of the 15 students who turned their backs to you in protest of teacher layoffs in California . Most of these students, as of 6/23/09 , have been denied their diplomas because of their protest. Some of these students have now received their diplomas, after signing an apology letter. The students of Lietchy Middle School deserve an apology from you; and, the administrators of their school.

These 15 students, who turned their backs on you, represent all of our youth being failed by the educational system. They critically evaluated a situation that immediately impacts their futures and community; and, decided that acceptance is not an option. As lacking as the educational system is, these students made an empowered decision to protest layoffs. These students are seizing their futures. Is this not what we educate our students to do?

I respectfully remind you, that these students are, and were, protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. I wonder if the conduct code of Lietchy Middle School includes denial of a diploma for turning one’s back in protest of teacher layoffs? I make no assumptions; so, if you have documentation of this protest being in violation, please provide the community with it.

While you and the administrators of Lietchy Middle School hold the right to be offended, you do not hold the right too deny these youth of their diplomas; nor, put a mark on their academic records for pointing out the impact that budget cuts have.

Ms. García, you have a responsibility to the students throughout the Los Angeles School District . I ask you to do the following:

* Remove any notation on these students’s records of any disciplinary action.
* Issue these student’s diplomas immediately; if students have met their requirements.
* Issue a public acknowledgment for standing silent and allowing a Los Angeles school, which falls under your elected area, to violate the First Amendment rights of its students

Ms. García, please don’t let the budget cuts absolve you of protecting the students that you serve.

-Mandolyn Ludlum