Demonstrating Exploitation

A Latino activist group has gained largely positive media coverage for organizing student walkouts to protest government social policies. But how admirable is it, really, to endanger young children for political purposes?

Jose Luis and Belen Trigueros, two Olin leaders from San Francisco, say they'd given the school district a deadline to produce a memo that halted walkout-related disciplinary actions. They say the school district's failure to give them such a memo led to the takeover of Chou's office.

Actually, though, the school district did what it promised to do at the school board meeting. Rojas issued a memo, dated the day after the meeting, asking his staff to investigate matters raised by Olin protesters. Two weeks later, his staff concluded that, Olin's claims notwithstanding, no formal suspensions had been issued.

Olin has protested against Proposition 184, the state's three-felonies-and-you're-in-prison-for-life ballot measure; Proposition 187, which disqualifies illegal immigrants from receiving most social services; and Proposition 227, which outlaws bilingual education. Over the years, high schools in San Francisco, Oakland, Daly City, Pittsburg, and Concord have yielded to the group's demands to institute ethnic studies programs. In some cases, the schools have even used an ethnic studies curriculum put together by the youth organizers themselves.

It is clear that the positions taken by Olin on these issues have wide support in the generally liberal San Francisco Bay Area. But it seems just as clear that the group's tactics are encouraging ever-younger students -- students who can have only the dimmest appreciation of the policy questions involved -- to skip school and travel long distances, without the prior approval of parents or teachers. At the least, these sudden disappearances of students cause parents and teachers real and unnecessary heartache. If a student engaged in such a protest is seriously injured or killed, that heartache may well be accompanied by civil litigation and/or criminal prosecution.

For all the adoring press Olin's multithousand-student rallies draw, the rallies themselves have produced relatively little, other than television spots that hold up the protesters as heroes for ... protesting. And for all the energy and passion put into Olin, many of its protests seem misinformed; much of its anger misplaced, or even a bit pathetic.

Thinking back to the day her office was taken over, Chou says she has no hard feelings toward the Olin organizers -- just pity. "The police asked me whether I wanted them arrested. I said no," Chou says. "I felt sorry for them. I think they are misled.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest

Around The Web

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.