By Jazmine Mendoza
16, Valley Regional HS #5 (San Fernando)
Occupy LAUSD was my first protest. I was excited to go because I think that it’s important for teachers and students to have their voices heard protesting school cuts. The march was organized by teachers and school staff who want people who have lost their jobs because of budget cuts to be re-hired.
When I got to City Hall after school on Oct. 18, I saw a group of people with posters that had messages about education written on them. I joined the group and started marching with them to Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters. I was disappointed that I didn’t see any students. I had mentioned it to my friends. Although they seemed interested in the cause, they didn’t come. I had imagined thousands of students and teachers overcrowding the streets to call attention to teacher layoffs and budget cuts. When I didn’t see that many people marching, I figured they would all be at LAUSD headquarters.
During the one-mile march, which took about 30 minutes, the marchers waved at cars and were getting interviewed. I thought the teachers marching would be mad because they had been laid off but instead they were enthusiastic.
It excited me that teachers, librarians, custodians and school counselors were taking action by protesting. As we walked, drivers honked to support us, which made me glad. I started yelling some of the chants like, “Money for jobs and education, not for war and corporations.”
When we got to LAUSD headquarters I still didn’t see any teens. I was disappointed because I wanted students to be represented. When the speakers were talking they each seemed to be bringing up the same issues—wanting teachers, nurses, librarians and librarian aids back. But I didn’t hear many people mention how the layoffs have affected students. Like when teachers get laid off, it’s not fair that students end up in overcrowded classrooms.
I still believe in the cause we were protesting for, but the Occupy LAUSD demonstration didn’t seem like the best way to solve the problem.
By Nicholas Robinson
16, Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts
I arrived at Los Angeles City Hall in downtown half an hour early to check out the Occupy LA protest. I had heard about it in my history class and on the news. About 200 tents surrounded City Hall. There were protest signs taped to trees, people playing bongo drums and I got a whiff of pot. But I was more interested in the Occupy LAUSD protest that was about to begin. I went because it bothers me that we have fewer counselors and custodians at my school and that teachers everywhere are losing their jobs.
At 4 p.m. a woman who helped organize the protest got on a megaphone and said, “We’re starting the march.” Only around 30 people were there. It wasn’t very impressive. She said that we were marching because of the cuts to teachers, custodians, nurses, etc., and how it’s hurting students. She also said that the Los Angeles Unified School District had a budget surplus of $55 million and the district was using it to pay administrators. I was surprised. Every time students at my school have asked why we can’t get materials like textbooks and lab equipment, we were told that there was no money in the budget.
Before we walked toward LAUSD headquarters just west of downtown, we walked around City Hall. Midway, I noticed that the crowd had grown from 30 to around 150 people. As we walked the crowd was chanting things like, “We are the 99 percent” and “Banks got paid off, teachers got laid off!”
It was a mix of people who were from Occupy LA and people dressed professionally, who I assumed were teachers. I go to school only a 15-minute walk from City Hall, so I was disappointed that I saw only one person I knew, a Spanish teacher I had for a few weeks before I dropped his class. I was hoping that a protest about education would have more teens involved.
When we arrived at LAUSD headquarters we gathered on the sidewalk in front of the building’s entrance. People held up giant banners as teachers and others spoke about the increased class sizes and how some students don’t have college counselors to help them. After about 30 minutes, they let anyone who wanted come up and talk on the microphone. Some of the speakers made outlandish comments like tax the media and destroy capitalism.
I felt the things the few extremist speakers said made the entire protest look bad and I worried that the protest’s most important message wouldn’t be taken seriously. But while I didn’t enjoy the protest as much as I hoped, I agreed with the message of bringing teachers, nurses and custodians back.