I slowly exit my drivers side and place my crutch for support. I was livid. Not just because my daughter's first amendment rights were being stifled. Not just because my 10 year old little girl is being stigmatized as "disruptive" for speaking truth to power. Not just because my 10 year old little girl is being conditioned for the industrial prison complex or low-wage labor without rights. My daughter is exposing the root cause of her peers mistreatment. She has named it - racism. She knows racism is stifling her. She knows racism is conditioning her to accept prison-like environments. And, now she would know what it means to be "imprisoned," criminalized.
It was the 360th degree of poverty. Mental poverty. Economic poverty. Cultural poverty. Social poverty. Political poverty.
Placing my daughter in a 'holding cell' in her "school" is not about correcting or restoring her behavior; its about silencing her voice - impoverishing her power. In forcing me to leave work; Breish placed me at risk for losing my job. Holyoke Public School officials are now playing a central role in perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
I rang the intercom and was buzzed in.
"Hello, Viviana," smiling broadly but, not looking me in the eyes Breish looked very relaxed. He leaned back into the secretary's desk chair, folded hands cradling the back of his head.
My earlier protests over the phone to "Let my daughter out of that cage!" and, my insistence he
"Let me speak to my daughter!" were dismissed.
Breish smugly defied me.
"I am sorry Viviana, Nani will have to spend the rest of the day in the "student support room". And, we are happy to provide a room if you would like to speak with Nani; she is in no imminent danger. He taunted me. In other words, if you want to even speak to your child, you need to drop everything, risk getting fired and leave your place of work.
The blatant defiant disrespect would send any parent into a frenzied, mentally distressing state.
"You are a racist pig and a coward; she's a good kid and doesn't deserve to be treated like a criminal." I told him to his face, returning the calm demeanor.
Breish was not moved. "Viviana, I don't want to get into this with you, right now." he dismissed.
My daughter walked in. Nani seemed nervous; her belongings disheveled.
"They gave me a pile of work to do, mommy," handing me a stack of ELA worksheets. I took them and walked over to Breish.
Looking my daughter in the eyes I reassured her.
"You haven't done anything wrong, baby. You told the truth about what you see happening in your classroom - you did the right thing. Moriarty (my daughter's homeroom teacher) is a racist and so is he," pointing to Breish.
"My daughter doesn't need this," slinging the ELA sheets on the desk in front of him.
I turned my back and heard him say "Nani, here is your phone," standing up to hand my daughter the cell phone he confiscated. Later, my daughter informed me Breish asked my daughter if she had her cell phone and if she had texted me.
"You know you are not suppose to have your cell phone and, I don't want you texting your mom!" Breish bullied.
Principal John Breish and others like him want to target our children, criminalize them and take away their ability to report it to their parents. Much in the same way defenseless working class and poor Black and Brown tax payers are victimized by judges and prosecutors who play the 'cop a plea' game. Women and men of color are sighted, arrested and jailed (for lack of bail funds or proper legal representation) defenselessly unable to communicate with loved ones. They sit in jail only because they won't cop a plea and want a fair trial.
My daughter and I walked out of Breish's office with our heads held high. With my supervisor/comrade's permission, I brought her to work with me. And although Nani had a fun day of hands-on learning; Breish had effectively removed my daughter from her classroom, her school and ultimately her learning community.
Three days later, on April 13, 2015 I responded to a notice to attend an open-door, parent meeting at the Sullivan School cafeteria. The flyer which came home only two days before the meeting read: "Got Questions? Come get the 411 from Principal Breish." The purpose of the meeting was to answer parent's questions regarding the state's hostile takeover of our entire school district.
Only under four weeks post-surgery on my right ACL and Miniscus and a full day of work I came home, exhausted. We had dinner. Still in a full leg immobilizer and crutches I made my way over to Sullivan's parent information meeting. Before an audience of eight to 10 White working class mothers and three or four Latino parents Breish and Paez used slides with non-factual "data" to illustrate the importance of the MCAS scores, statistics on the underachievement of Latino students in the areas of ELA and Math and how this was affecting the overall performance of 'the district'.
In a paternalistic drawl Breish explained "Sadly, Latino students are failing...." I could see and feel Latino mothers stiffen up in their healthcare uniforms. It was shaming. It sickened me. I broke the inertia from the parent's side of the room.
"Will there be an actual Q & A period or, can we ask questions intermittently?"
"No, you can may ask a question now," Breish replied.
"School administrators have known about the threat of receivership since Jan. of this year. Why are we just being allowed to have audience with school administrators and Superintendent Paez?" I asked.
"That's a great question. I don't have a concrete answer. It takes a lot time to put this information together?" Breish replied making direct eye contact with Superintendent Paez as he threw a bone at my question.
Pathetic. I knew that was a bold face lie. Both Breish and Paez knew of the impending hostile takeover and did NOTHING to inform parents, students, administrative staff or, teachers. Matter of fact, they did everything to keep parents, teachers, (who don't actively participate in the their union) supportive and administrative staff and of course students - completely in the dark about what could be done to protect our democratic rights to maintain local control of our publicly funded education.
As an engaged parent, when the announcement was first made in January, I moved to oppose the receivership collaboratively with other HPS parents, residents and concerned residents of the Pioneer Valley. On January 10th 2015, my 10 year old daughter and I both testified before the Foundation Budget Review Commission before Congress women Sonia Chang-Diaz and others to oppose the systemic targeting of urban, inner-city districts with predominantly low-income families of color via financial divestment.
Superintendent Paez and principal John Breish were not present. Alex Morse the Mayor of Holyoke was also NOT present. I conceived The Rise of Holyoke Schools, a grass-roots parent-of-color-led group to oppose the removal of local control of our schools. I created a facebook page, spoke with various school staff and, teachers who responded with were all afraid to get involved for fear of losing their jobs. Breish and Paez never supported my efforts to distribute flyers to invite parents to the first of a series of Parent Information Session RHS would be facilitating.
|Left to right: Adam Grabowski Sullivan School Parent, Leida Andino Holyoke resident, Sherri Jourdain & Jacky Jourdain, Sullivan School parent and student having lunch at Rise of Holyoke Schools 1st Parent Info Session.|
|Marly Torres, Sullivan School Parent Testifies at Rise of Holyoke School's 1st Parent Info Session her son Victor is Targeted with in-house suspensions.|
Knowing all of this, I pressed further. "Why hasn't Paez every returned any of my emails or calls or granted any of my requests to meet in person?"
The cafeteria was still; you cold hear a pin drop.
"Viviana, we have to let other parents ask questions, as well." averting my question. No parents had their hands raised - he just wanted to shut me down.
"You are a liar! Paez is also a liar!" I asserted.
"They think we are stupid," stated a Latina mother who sat across from me. We weren't invited to be heard, much less informed. We were invited to be brainwashed about how OUR kids are failures and receivership wouldn't be "so bad." Another Latina parent and her now adult daughter who attended Sullivan school as a child confirmed they too felt completely abused and neglected by the Holyoke Public School system.
"I felt the same way your daughter feels when I was a student at Sullivan. That was many hears ago," confirmed Cristal, now a parent, herself.
"We need to protest," Cristal's mother grumbled.
It was clear to me many parents, students and former students now parents in the system were feeling lied to, betrayed and circumvented by HPS previous and current administration. As we chatted quietly, Breish and Paez became visibly upset. I noticed Breish come over to our table.
"Viviana, if you keep this up, I'm gonna have to call the police and have you escorted out," whispering his threat.
"Do what you have to do." unmoved by his cowardly intimidation tactics.
Moments later, four police cruisers arrived to the front of the school lights flashing through the front of the cafeteria. The cafeteria exploded in a wave of murmuring. Breish walked out of the cafeteria and began speaking to the officers.
A few of us Latino mothers sat in awe of the blatant ridiculousness of Breish's actions. Four police cruisers rushed to an elementary school parent meeting where NOTHING illegal, criminal, or even dangerous was happening. What a waste of our tax dollars. What a blatant show of White Supremacy, Racism and how the Holyoke Public School district criminalizes students of color and their parents. But it wasn't going down like that; not this time.
"Maam, can we speak to you outside." the officer asserted. It wasn't a question.
"No." I replied.
"We just want to speak with you outside so we don't disrupt the meeting." he offered.
"No," I repeated. "This is my daughter's school. This is a open parent meeting and I am a parent here. I am not getting up." I closed.
"Just two minutes," the officer insisted as the another white female officer approached.
"This is disrupting the meeting," the White female officer stated in an irritated tone.
"No, you are disrupting the meeting." I said.
"Am I being detained? Otherwise you are harassing me and I will call the media." I clarified.
"Go ahead, call the media," the officer hissed as he walked away and out of the cafeteria.
My daughter was playing in the playground when she saw the cruiser lights in front of the cafeteria.
"Mommy, you okay?" Nani asked looking very scared.
"Yes, baby I'm okay," I assured her knowing everything about what has happened, is happening and will happen in this school district, is not okay.
Two days later, Monday, April 15th 2015 I receive another text from my child:
"Hey mom. Guess what happened today? I'm in 'inhouse'. You know why because Shanis was talking this morning just like everyone else was. And, Ms. Moriarty yelled at Shanis and then I jumped in and said well she was doing the same thing as everyone else. The next thing I knew Shanis called Ms. Moriarty a racist and me and her are in 'inhouse'. Sooooo sick of this school crossing fingers that I won't be there for long. Not doing the work. Don't leave your job! If you don't want me to be here send another person ok? Love you, bye."
In a matter of five days my daughter had been displaced from her classroom and learning community twice for nothing other than speaking truth to power, defending her freedom of expression and calling out her teacher's racist practices.
This time when I arrived at Sullivan School pick up area (in front of the cafeteria) Jim Desautels one of the assistant principals at Sullivan stood chatting with a police officer who sat in his cruiser. Breish stood on the sidewalk in front of the cafeteria waiting to deliver my daughter as if to say "we don't even want you coming into the school."
Make no mistake, Holyoke Public School Officials will continue to criminalize children and parents of color until WE decide to UNITE and FIGHT BACK.
How long will WE allow them to treat us like this? I don't know about you but, I'm done.
This year, I opted my child out of the MCAS; she will NEVER again be a piggy bank for greedy, racist, wealthy capitalists.
IF you want to learn more about how to fight back and protect your child's right to an equal, holistic, safe and nurturing education respond to this post.
If we don't have each other's back; they will continue picking us off - one by one.
If you would like to obtain the formal Opt Out Parental Form please click this link: The Rise of Holyoke Schools you can find the forms in the thread of posts just search MCAS Opt Out Forms.
Also, feel free to share your own account of the criminalization of you or, your child by HPS.