How can 'See it? Say it...' work if the kids have to face retaliation for 'snitching'? Tilden administration side-stepping complaints about protection for student whistle-blowts

Everyone who has ever worked in a real Chicago public school or done community organizing in a real Chicago community knows there is "Reality" (the version you might get to see on the news) and the real world (which is what exists in the schools and on the streets). For several years, going back to Arne Duncan as CPS CEO and Jody Wiess as CPD Chief, the police and school officials have been encouraging children to become basically local "whistle blowers". One of the latest versions of that is "See it? Say it" -- which means if you see something illegal in your school, the the administration.

Chicago's Tilden High School.But you would think that implicit in that directive to children would be some protections once you've done the "Say It" part. But, then this is Chicago...

I first visited Edward Tilden "Academy" (for those from outside Chicago, it's a high school, 9 - 12) January 15, 2013, at the request of Ronald Jackson, a member of the Tilden Local School Council (LSC). I met the members of the LSC, including Principal Maurice Swinney. There was not a quorum that day, and a lively discussion followed. It appeared that questions about getting a quorum on the LSC and transparency of school programs and past and present finances had been worked out between Swinney and the LSC.

All agreed that past problems of the school had nothing to do with the present administration, and they were going to work together to build a "new school." We had a tour of the school and saw that Tilden had many new programs. For example, there was a mentoring program to help students improve their grades. Tilden was even reaching out to alumni and getting them involved in the school, the administration told us.

“Unfortunately, the promises were never kept," Ronald Jackson told Substance recently. "There has been little transparency about past and present budgets, LSC members are not welcome to help with decisions or work with the students, and while the LSC has enough members, they have not met officially because there is never a quorum.”

I talked to Donald Jackson, a parent of a former student at Tilden. Donald Jackson’s daughter, now entering her junior year and an excellent student, transferred to Tilden Academy last August from Champaign, Illinois. Donald Jackson stated that not much later, problems began to occur at school and he went to the Dean of Students and Principal Swinney to discuss the matter first, but later he had to go to CPS to actually get any assistance.

According to Donald Jackson, the first incident happened when his daughter was a cheerleader and was not assigned a locker. She left her belongings, including a phone, in the locker room, and when she returned the phone was missing. She went to the principal and was told that she “should have locked the phone in her locker,” but she didn’t have a locker.

The second incident happened when the student was told to go to the attendance office because she was at cheerleading practice, which dismissed late, and she needed to get a bus pass. The attendance officer gave her the bus pass but was rude.

The student missed some school because she was going to a doctor’s appointment twice a month. The school told her that she needed to go to see doctor after school and would not accept his note. Jackson went to CPS and received permission for his daughter to visit the doctor during school hours.

Jackson talked to the math teacher and Swinney about giving his daughter advanced math because the work was too easy. She said that she had done that work in 7th and 8th grades. Jackson was told that there was nothing he could do to change the content of the class.

A substitute teacher wanted to see his daughter’s ID which was hanging around her neck and just reached down and grabbed it even though the ID was in her lap, she pushed his hand away.

On May 6, 2013, the cheerleading team was holding a fund raiser to collect money to go to Six Flags. Jackson’s daughter saw another student stealing money and told the coach. The students had been told that if they see something wrong, they should say something and she did.

Later, Jackson’s daughter called him saying that the student that she told on was threatening her. Jackson went to school, Swinney told Jackson that the situation had been taken care of. The next day the girl called her father saying, this student was threatening her in the lunch room, saying he was going to jump her and that she was a snitch. A friend of hers told the boys that they were not going to “do Jack to her.” There was no security in the lunch room, but the security did come.

Jackson went to the Dean of Students and was told the situation was resolved; and Swinney said that he only had five minutes to talk to the parent. Jackson called a number from CPS and a CPS representative was supposed to come to visit the school and talk with Swinney and the Jackson. The CPS representative was not able to come. Jackson talked to a replacement police officer at school who told him to go to the Police Department and file a complaint and take his daughter out of school. Jackson stated, “I’ve complained about twice a month about this stupidity and all I get from the Principal is: “I’ll look into it.”

Next day CPS was going to call the Principal to arrange a meeting. Jackson asked his brother and LSC member, Ronald Jackson to attend the meeting. At the meeting was Donald Jackson, his daughter, Ronald Jackson, the Dean of students, head of Security, Police officer and Maurice Swinney. Donald Jackson wanted to record the whole meeting, but Swinney refused.

Ronald Jackson asked why they could not tape. What did they have to hide? At that point the Police Officer said, “You have to leave” and arrested Ronald Jackson.

According to Jackson’s daughter, nothing happened to the student who stole the money except a short suspension.

May 27, Jackson's daughter had a hairline fracture in her leg and needed assistance, Jackson was assured that she would get help getting off the elevator, but too often the help was not there. The principal told Donald Jackson that if he had a problem, he needs to contact the CPS law department.

Cathy Daley an education organizer for KOCO, came to Tilden to talk with Swinney about the arrest of Ronald Jackson and the problems that Donald Jackson had with the school. Daley stated after the meeting that “particularly in this time of closing schools, if the students are told ‘If you see something, say something,’ and the student does tell, the student should not be bullied and when parents and community members come to school to talk to the principal, they should not be arrested.

At other schools, for example Gage High and King High, students have expressed concerns about safety and have not been taken seriously.

At first, Principal Maurice Swinney, was willing to talk to me about the situation, but later he changed his response to “No Comment.”


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