Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Friday, May 19, 2017


Dear Friends,

This week, students at Hazelwood West High School walked out of classes in protest. They walked out in support of their teachers, who are in the middle of a contentious contract negotiation with the Hazelwood School District.

The school district responded by suspending many students, including many members of student leadership and several seniors. These suspensions were to be served out of school. The suspended seniors - including the class president - would be subject to arrest if they showed up to their graduation ceremony.

Our mission is to show children the power they have to lead. These students chose to lead, and I felt it was the responsibility of the Education Exchange Corps to support them.

I personally spent all day yesterday with these kids. I worked with the ACLU to make sure the students had legal representation; while the ACLU pursued legal options to rescind the suspensions, I counseled students on their options and was prepared to provide legal assistance in the event of any post-suspension arrests. But, most importantly, I was just present for them, whatever they needed.

Yesterday morning, several non-suspended students worked with Metropolitan Congregations United to stage a sit-in at the district's administrative building while their suspended colleagues held up signs on the sidewalk outside.

The students demanded a meeting with the superintendent. Eventually, the superintendent agreed to meet with Metropolitan Congregations United. And, after some time, the parents and students met with an assistant superintendent separately.

The suspensions were not resolved at these meetings. As the day wore on, I brought snacks and water bottles, but the teachers sent the kids their favorite food: pizza. Lots of pizza.

In the afternoon, students moved to Hazelwood West High School and protested there. Honking supports came from everywhere: School buses, families, police officers, company vans, Metro buses. In an amazing moment, teachers risked their jobs and joined their students on the sidewalk.

Last night, the district rescinded the suspensions.

From my conversations with these kids and seeing them in action, these young leaders were not pressured or manipulated by anyone to go protest. They chose to stand up for their teachers because they loved them. The sheer joy on those students' faces when they saw their teachers join them in protest was an amazing sight.

This was a student-led movement. They chose to walk out. They chose to accept the consequences listed in their handbook. They chose to protest when the punishment they were given was inconsistent with the rules. They chose to demand meetings with administrators and voice their opinions to those in power.

They chose to be leaders, and I was honored to have supported them.

Although the students are no longer suspended, they are not done. They want to create lasting change in their community, and they will continue to try to work with administrators to make sure students have a productive avenue to voice their opinions.

I spoke with these amazing kids and their phenomenal parents. As the Project Coordinator for Missouri For All, I provided them an open opportunity to have a sounding board or space to plan at any time. As the CEO of the Education Exchange Corps, I invited them to come speak with our kids this summer at our leadership academy. Some even want to volunteer with us!

We are very excited to be working and learning from these young leaders. With these kids, our future is in excellent hands.

We want to extend our thanks to Metropolitan Congregations United, the ACLU, Pastor Karen Anderson of the Ward Chapel A M E Church, the many supporters who called the school district, the media for covering this important issue, the Hazelwood community, Hazelwood teachers, Hazelwood parents, and the phenomenal students of Hazelwood.


President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

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