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Dyett hunger strikers protested outside the Mayor’s office at City Hall Friday morning. Strikers Irene Robinson sat as Anna Jones rested on the arm of her wheelchair. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Dyett High School hunger strikers take protest to City Hall

SHARE Dyett High School hunger strikers take protest to City Hall
SHARE Dyett High School hunger strikers take protest to City Hall

With labored steps and clutching water bottles, the hunger-striking Dyett High School protesters took their cause to City Hall Friday.

“We’re tired, but we’re united,” said one of the hunger strikers, Jitu Brown. “Walking up stairs is like a major chore.”

Ten of the 12 showed up Friday to deliver a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. As the protest enters its 12th day, the group expressed anger at a Chicago Public Schools’ hint Thursday that the Bronzeville facility might not, after all, become home to a new high school.

CPS decided in 2012 to close the school, citing low enrollment and poor performance. In June, just 13 seniors graduated. CPS has been accepting applications from organizations for a new, reimagined school in the Bronzeville facility. But CPS rejected the protesters’ Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Community High School concept.

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Dyett hunger strikers protested outside the Mayor’s office at City Hall Friday morning. Jitu Brown talked to a reporter. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

On Thursday, CPS’ new Chief Academic Officer Janice Jackson said it’s possible that no school may take over the Dyett space.

“It’s important to be straightforward about the obstacles to opening another high school in this area, considering the fact that they have declining enrollment and we have existing high schools there that are under-enrolled,” Jackson said.

“We don’t want to open a new school and then have those schools competing when they’re already in a position where they’re fighting over the same children.”

The protesters say CPS’ math is wrong when it comes to determining student numbers, and that politics is behind the changed proposal for Dyett.

“The mayor’s attempt to once again derail the Dyett [request for proposal] process is nothing more than a last-minute ploy to keep the district from giving a predominantly black, low-income community a top-quality public school,” said protest spokesman J. Brian Malone.

A representative from the mayor’s office said that he would pass on the letter to Emanuel.

Later Friday, the Chicago Teachers Union issued a statement urging the mayor and CPS to hold a meeting on the matter on Monday.

“The fight for Dyett has been very real for people in Bronzeville for years, but now, it’s become a matter of life or death,” said CTU VP Jesse Sharkey. “The fact that the Dyett 12 has resorted to starving themselves for the future of public education in their community shows just how little their voice has been heard, and not just by the mayor, but by all of the so-called elected officials that should be representing them.”

“We know who runs education in this city and who controls the schools, and changing this arbitrary September hearing date could be one of the easiest decisions for City Hall to make, and one that could be done with a wave of the mayor’s hand. The district needs to hold hearings on Dyett immediately and let the community’s voice make a difference, for a change. We are asking them to preserve lives and to hold their hearing as early as Monday. That’s an easy decision. What should be hard for the mayor, and for Frank Clark, and for the Board of Ed to do is to watch people starve in their fight for an open-enrollment school in their neighborhood.”

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