Chicago's Social Justice High School-"Sojo"-is under attack by CPS. Sojo was "born out of struggle" in 2001 when 14 Little Village residents endured a 19-day hunger strike to fight for a new school in their neighborhood. In Fall 2005, Sojo and three other small schools opened in a new building on 31st and Kostner, serving Little Village and North Lawndale. The Little Village/Lawndale campus is a plum in the system, costing around $70 million to build, and was, at the time, the most expensive school ever built in Illinois. Sojo is a school built on the principles of the Hunger Strike: truth and transparency, struggle and sacrifice, ownership and agency, and collective and community power. Four classes have graduated, and its graduates and other former students are serious young people committed to understanding their world and working for social justice.
But now, Sojo is under attack by the CPS Administration. Sojo's very existence as a neighborhood public school serving low-income African American and Latina/o students with the vision of community self-determination-as exemplified by its inspiring and dignified student sit-in-is antithetical and a threat to the current top-down, CPS corporate model of schooling (see short video clip of the sit in here).
- CPS never gave a contract to the new Sojo principal, Kathy Farr, who was selected by the Advisory LSC and started in March 2012.On Tuesday, August 7th, just six days before school began, CPS fired and replaced her with an interim principal, without consulting anyone in the Sojo community.
- When school opened Monday, the interim principal cut three AP classes and replaced them with remedial classes, fired two attendance clerks, and reassigned teachers to classes and subjects with no preparation.
- This Wednesday, Day #3 of school, students organized a peaceful, respectful sit-in from 1st thru 5th periods to demand the reinstatement of AP classes and staff into their original positions.
- The interim principal allegedly agreed to the students' demands and students returned to classes. But this battle is not over.
Sojo is the type of school our children deserve and need. It is committed to educating young people to excel academically so that they are prepared to be shapers of the world. Its students have testified in public hearings, won Posse scholarships, spoken around the country at education research conferences, passed college classes while in HS, gone to New Orleans to rebuild the Lower 9th Ward, and now organized a sit in to stand up for their rights.
Sojo is a national model. The last line of the school mission sums it up: "Our students will cherish and preserve their ethnic and cultural identity, will serve and determine the future of our community, and will have a passion for peace, justice and the dignity of all people." The attack on Sojo is like the dismantling of the Ethnic Studies program in Tucson and the attack on the Bronzeville Global Achievers Village plan in Chicago's Mid-South community.
Be ready! The Sojo school community is planning next steps, and they will need our support.