POLITICS
01/16/2017 04:17 pm ET

These Teachers Have A Plan To Fight Back Against Donald Trump

“We will teach empathy and solidarity in the face of attempts to divide us."
Hope Robertson, 17, of Mission High School, holds up a sign in front of San Francisco City Hall in protest of President-elect
Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters
Hope Robertson, 17, of Mission High School, holds up a sign in front of San Francisco City Hall in protest of President-elect Donald Trump.

Some teachers in California are ready and willing to fight back if President-elect Donald Trump does anything to harm their students. 

As part of a group that calls itself “Educators in Resistance,” teachers in San Francisco and Oakland have pledged not to cooperate with or normalize an administration that they think emboldens white supremacy. In meetings, which have had anywhere from 10 to 100 attendees, they’ve planned ways to fight back ― such as organizing student-teacher protests outside of San Francisco’s city hall and instating committees to organize resistance movements across local schools.

And on Friday, the day of Trump’s inauguration, some plan to walk out of school with their students.

The goal, according to several educators who spoke with The Huffington Post, is to create a long-term foundation for struggle against Trump and the policies he may put in place. These teachers work with immigrants and students of color who have expressed fears that the president-elect has emboldened racism and promoted hostile rhetoric against minority groups. The teachers hope their work inspires other educators around the country to similarly organize. 

“We’re trying to take a stand and be public and support our students, but we’re also saying we’re not going to go along with fascism and the things the Trump administration has promised, which are direct threats to a large number of the students we serve,” said Ben Rosen, who teaches government classes to 12th-graders in San Francisco and was part of the committee that helped craft the pledge of resistance.

“We will teach empathy and solidarity in the face of attempts to divide us. We will teach courage and speaking truth to power in the face of intimidation and lies. We will teach critical thinking in the face of dogma and pressure to conform,” the pledge reads, in part. 

Rosen’s students urged him to go to Washington, D.C., this week to participate in demonstrations against Trump, and that’s exactly what he has done.

Jose Montenegro, a ninth-grade social sciences teacher in San Francisco, said schools can harness social power to fight Trump. 

“Back in the day, factories were the places that held a lot of social power,” Montenegro said. “Since we don’t have that today, schools seem to be the places that concentrate large numbers of working-class students, and teachers as well, and I believe we can leverage that power in a social movement.”

Montenegro plans to skip school on Friday so he can meet up with some of his students in front of city hall to demonstrate. He encourages other teachers to do the same.

Shannon Carey, who teaches 12th grade in Oakland, said she found the election results to be shocking. She teaches at a small, lottery-based school almost entirely composed of students of color who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Many of her students are immigrants or the children of immigrants. In the days immediately following Trump’s win, she describes many of her students as being in a state of grieving.

Some students at Carey’s school started using their lunch breaks to plan events in response to the incoming administration.

One of their ideas was a teach-in, which is now set to take place Wednesday, so that local activists, organizational leaders and lawyers could hold workshops at the school. One planned session includes a speaker whose family members were in Japanese prison camps. Another includes a speaker from a local justice organization who can talk to students about their rights when dealing with police officers. Attorneys will speak to students about the legal rights of immigrants.

Carey also plans to skip school on Friday as part of a “general strike” with students. Although she will not get paid that day, leaders at her school have made it clear that she won’t be punished for her activism.

Since the election, Carey says her mind has been swirling. She is concerned about her undocumented students and what will happen to them. She is concerned about a potential increase in police violence if Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is confirmed as attorney general. She is concerned that Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, could chip away at federal funding for low-income schools. And she is concerned about changes in the Department of Housing and Urban Development that could affect her students who live in public housing. 

“I’ve been a teacher for 25 years, and teachers are often seen as sheep, like we don’t stand up for we don’t believe it. ... A lot of is like, we’re [seen as] polite white women. This is a way for people to stand up for what we believe in. There’s no excuse to be neutral at this point,” she said. “We cannot model passivity ― no matter what the political climate.”

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Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. Tips?Email: Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com.

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