Doctors, nurses ask mayor to step in as Dyett hunger strike hits 29th day

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Dyett hunger-strikers want a voice in the future operation of the school. | Sun-Times file photo

As supporters of Dyett High School began their 29th day without solid foods, doctors and nurses returned to City Hall Monday to ask Mayor Rahm Emanuel to give them a voice in the new school.

The Dyett 15 — a group of parents and activists who wanted a neighborhood school reopened in the historic Dyett High School building at 555 E. 51st Street — want Chicago Public Schools to hold elections for a Local School Council, whose members then will get to hire a principal in the arts-based school CPS plans to open next fall.

Cook County Commissioner Jeses “Chuy” Garcia, Ald. Sue Garza (10th) and Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) also planned a press conference at City Hall later Monday at which they will urge Emanuel to negotiate with the hunger-strikers, according to a news release.

CPS closed Dyett High School for good in June after 13 seniors graduated. The district had sought proposals for a new school model and intended to approve one in late August, but then the newly-appointed CEO Forrest Claypool opted against all three proposals that came in and decided instead to launch their own school dedicated to the arts. CPS has said that it did consult community leaders before announcing the arts school.

One of the proposals had come from the group now on strike; they wanted to create the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. In announcing the new school, Claypool said it would incorporate some of the technology components of the hunger-strikers proposal.

Twelve of the 15 stopped eating solid foods on August 17; three more joined last week. They are drinking broth, water and protein shakes. A few of them were hospitalized in late August.

Dr. Linda Rae Murray, chief medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health of the Cook County Health and Hospital System, joined Erin Raether, a registered nurse and member of Nurses for Social Justice, as well as others, to ask the mayor to negotiate. They also had made an earlier plea to the mayor on the 11th day of the protest.

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