A sophomore at South High School gave the following speech Thursday morning at a student action in solidarity with the Minneapolis educator’s strike. This was the second student action organized in support of the educators. Over 100 students showed up early to the Davis Center where contract negotiations were being held, demanding to speak to the superintendent of schools, Ed Graff. While they were waiting, Jane gave the following speech.
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Hi, my name is Jane Rohlfing. I’m a sophomore at South High School, a helper at MFT [Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals] and the creator of the South High Student Strike Support Committee.
My school, for the last few years, has been hell for so many different reasons.
We just got out of a year-long lock down. My school is just five minutes away from George Floyd square and we are on Lake Street where the riots happened. This has affected all of us greatly. These students, my peers, are struggling and need help.
Every day I walk into my school and see how tired, stressed, and overworked my teachers are from grading papers all night, dealing with emails, making lesson plans, being with their families, and sometimes working a second job. Being a teacher just isn’t financially dependable anymore, and now they have to deal with students in distress who have nowhere to put that anger and sadness but onto each other.
Kids need mental health support now more than ever, and shouldn’t have to rely on violence or strained teachers as their only outlet. Instead, we need more social workers helping us, listening to us, and overall just being there for us. One social worker per a thousand kids isn’t sustainable.
I’ve been seeing these problems in public schools for a while now.When I heard the teachers were going on strike, I knew that it wasn’t only for them and fair pay; it was for me and all my fellow students’ well being. They are fighting for us, so it’s only fair I come out here and fight with them on the line.
I am baffled by the pettiness Ed Graff and other administrators are showing regarding the teachers’ strike. They are scaring students by threatening to take away our graduation, purposely not informing parents, and blocking informative websites on students’ computers. They want us to stay ignorant, but I refuse. We refuse.
I am also baffled by how so many people, including Josh Pauly [Minneapolis school board member who recently resigned], claim to have our backs and to have students’ best interest in mind, yet fail to show up and put in the work.
And finally, I am baffled by the amount of money just sitting there in Ed Graff’s pocket, not being spent on my future as if I’m not worth it. How come the next generation gets nothing but scraps? We deserve smaller classes! We deserve more one-on-one time with teachers! We deserve social workers being there for us! And we deserve safe and stable schools!!!!