Students Form Their Own School After Being Suspended

After the announcement of yet another Detroit school closure, last week more than 100 students at Western International High School held a walkout to protest the deteriorating state of their school system. As a consequence, Detroit Public Schools suspended each student who left school for five days. On Friday, students took it upon themselves to start a “Freedom School” to continue their education despite the suspensions.

The Freedom School is a student-run project with students, professors and community leaders volunteering to teach on a variety of topics including civil rights, art and hip hop.  “We were thrown out of school for fighting for an equal education and we’re doing this to show we’re still going to be learning even if we got kicked out school,” said junior Raychel Gafford.

Although Western is not under threat of closure at the present time, nearby Southwestern High will be closing this year. As a result, many of Southwestern’s students will be sent to Western’s already overcrowded classrooms. Down the road, Southwestern’s building will possibly be turned into a for-profit charter school. “Schools are not supposed to be ran as businesses, education is a long term investment. We should not be making money off our students,” said Gafford.

Elena Herrada, a member of the Detroit school board, expressed admiration for the students’ plight. “The students have tremendous community support. This is what creates leadership – the crisis,” she said.

So far the school appears to be thriving, if its Facebook page is an indication. Community members are offering the students assistance in the form of food, supplies and knowledge. People can also keep tabs on the Freedom School’s schedule on its Twitter account.

Steve Wasko, a spokesperson for Detroit Public Schools said that students’ claims that schools are overcrowded and lacking in supplies are “untrue,” adding, “To have adults encouraging students to skip school is irresponsible and pathetic.”

“We had to walk out today because we have nowhere else to go. All of these cuts being made across the city are coming without any input from the students,” countered suspended student Natalie Rivers. “We will be heard even if it takes walking out of school.”

Rivers’s peer Brandon Sandoval echoed her sentiment. “We shouldn’t have to fight to keep our schools open, we shouldn’t have to fight for better schools, we shouldn’t have to fight for a quality education. But because of the greed and corruption of those in power, we are forced to fight for it all.”

Perhaps these teenagers are demonstrating a higher commitment to education than the Detroit school system itself.

Related Stories:

Students Suspended From Catholic School for Pro-Choice Activism

Activists Protest on Streets and Board Rooms

Detroit Public Schools To Be Corporatized

Photo Credit: Freedom School's Tumblr Page


Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

These schools have to get the best out of their timez. Give 'em a chance..

Janice M.
Janice Ma5 years ago

@Kenneth D. So you don't think that starting their own school when they could be off playing indicates self discipline? And obedience is often ill placed and over-rated. It is eventually going to lead them back to schools, to schools that are vastly more over crowded and under funded. Basically you're saying they should be obedient to a bully and to someone who does not have their best interests at heart. If you'd lived in Europe in WW2 we know which side you'd have been on, don't we? The obedient side, the side that turned in their neighbors--because that's what they were told to do--and one must go against what the authority figure says to do. Right?

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

Good on them for being pro-active!

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago


Cynthia Jackson
Cynthia Jackson5 years ago

I hope they find the schooling the so deserv e, whether from family and friends or teacher and the internet. Michigan has tough homescholling regulations compared to Indiana. but the internet could be the solution.

Mandy Harker
Mandy H5 years ago

Well I'm not 100% sure what the schooling system is in the US is like but while a school shouldn't be run like a business it's very important to make sure that the school does have some money. If a school doesn't have enough money it can't actually teach, it can't pay teachers, get furniture, equipment ect. It is necessary for public schools to charge a small fee (compared to privet school) in order to be able to keep up with the necessary bills. For me to go to a public school in Melbourne Australia it costs $550 for a year and to me that sounds reasonable especially as they have options to pay it off, the schools need the money in order to function.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold5 years ago

More power to these motivated students and those who are helping them.

Hannah Short
Hannah Short5 years ago

who would have thought that a bunch of high school students would start their own school instead of just staying home or going out, I'm so excited there are people still responsible on this planet

Kenneth D.
Kenneth Davies5 years ago

What happened to obedience and self discipline

Kenneth D.
Kenneth Davies5 years ago

What happened to obedience and self discipline