Three California high school students are hunger-striking in San Leandro to protest sweeping school budget cuts they say would effectively, "kill [their] school."
Anai Rosales, 18; Veronica Mandujano, 18; and Kayla Ely, 17, have been starving themselves since Wednesday, March 7 in an effort to reverse a 7-0 vote by the San Leandro Unified School District Board of Education to lay-off more than 50 full-time San Leandro High school personnel, including teachers, councilors, administrators, custodians and security.
This move will effectively gut the music, arts and any sports program at the school deemed "unprofitable," says Sandra Martinez, mother of Anai. Ms. Martinez says while she supports her daughter and thinks she has a "beautiful power" for doing this "for everyone," she is very worried for about her daughter's health.
"This is a terrible situation, both what they are doing to the school and what's happening to my daughter," said an audibly shaken Ms. Martinez. " My daughter is slender, and already she's lost one pound, and her poor face looks so tired... I'm so worried for her. I want the government to do something for these girls."
Anai described her and her peers' decision to hunger strike as "an escalation," after rounds of student protests and meetings with district administrators failed to stave of the fifth year of budget austerity for San Leandro High. Anai said she has fully educated herself as to the risks of hunger striking, but said she feels like her and her peers' futures are on the chopping block, along with their school's flagship programs.
"Just like you have to feed the body, you have to feed the mind," said Anai. "But these cuts will starve our minds, and our minds are just as important as our bodies."
Ms. Martinez wants the world to know what's happening with Anai, Ely, Veronica and their classmates. She said her daughter and her friends are so determined to save their school, "...both the teachers and the students, that I am scared. I am really scared. I'm so scared for my daughter that she's not going to stop."
The best hope for Anai and her friends is that people across the country connect with their story and help pressure district and state officials to freeze the lay-off process at San Leandro High, said Ms. Martinez.
According to Anai, her school is only one of thousands facing similar crippling austerity across the country, but that if more students hear about the San Leandro hunger strikers, maybe they will know, "the time to band together is now."
Ms. Marinez invites people interested in supporting the San Leandro hunger strikers or furthering their story to write her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 510-692-7718. "My daughter is suffering right now," she said. "While we are talking, she is starving for something that she believes in and that is right. The kids are our future. Why are they trying to cut our future!?"
The California State Board of Education can be contacted at 916-319-0827. Press 5 to leave a message for Executive Director Sue Burr.
The members of the San Leandro Unified School District Board of Education can be individually contacted at the following e-mail addresses:
Hermy Almonte, Vice President
Lance James, Member
Ron Carey, Member
Mike Katz-Lacabe, Member
Morgan Mack-Rose, President
Diana J. Prola, Member
Carmen M. Sullivan, Clerk