Park Middle, possibly other Antioch school teachers asked to promote state unions’ May 1st Day of ActionFriday, April 21st, 2017
Teachers, students asked to wear red, put names on red strips of paper, make posters; district, principal unaware of effort
By Allen Payton
On Thursday, an Antioch resident concerned with “communist propaganda being pushed at school” informed the herald of an effort at Park Middle School entitled “‘Park Spartans Stand in Solidarity’ – May 1st” asking all staff and students to wear red that day, as part of “a movement to build a stronger union.” In addition, students are asked to make signs and posters during the “first week of our block schedule for testing, April 24 – 28,” which begins next Monday.
May 1st was the day chosen by the International Workers of the World and the Communist Party to protest for workers’ rights, starting in the late 1800’s and gaining prominence in the early 1900’s. The raised, clinched fist became the symbol of the movement. That symbol has since been adopted by other movements such as the black power and feminist movements.
Now it’s being used by the California Teachers Association (CTA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, which, via its website, is asking teachers and students to participate in their May 1st Statewide Day of Action to “Stand Up for Students.”
In an email message, the resident, who wished to remain anonymous wrote, “This memo [below] is circulating at Park Middle School. Why are public schools pushing political propaganda? Thought you may want to look into it” and forwarded the following message:
“Remember that on May 1st we are ‘Park Spartans Stand in Solidarity,’ so you can have your students make posters next week.
‘Park Spartans Stand in Solidarity’ – May 1st
This is a day where the Nation will create a movement to build a stronger union to strengthen free, safe, and quality public education for ALL students based on social, economic, and political justice.
- ALL staff and students should wear RED this day.
- Students will be writing their names on red strips of paper during their lunches on April 26th – 28th. They will be linked together. (PLEASE send any red construction paper you would like to donate to Shelly in room 602.)
- Share the information with your students, and they can make signs and posters. A great week to have your students do this is the first week of our block schedule for testing, April 24 – 28. Any posters you want hung up outside of the school, please send to me by the end of the day on Friday, April 28th. Also, if anyone wants to get here early on May 1st to hang up the posters, I would appreciate it.
- I have attached a scan of the Action page. At the bottom are different links. One includes different ideas and activities you can do.
- Please take the pledge to Stand for ALL Students: cta.org/ForAllStudents (copy and paste the website)”
In an email response to questions about the memo, the anonymous resident wrote, “It is my understanding that it is a District wide program and each school is encouraged to set up their own May Day celebration based on the CTA guide. As far as the email I provided, it was sent out to all Park Middle School employees and I have been told that many employees are upset that the District is pushing this propaganda on the students. I have also been told by a friend at Mno Grant Elementary School that they are setting up a similar program there.”
On the CTA’s web page promoting the activities for the Day of Action, it asks people to sign a pledge with the message, “Take the Pledge: A Call to Action for the Public Education ALL California’s Students Deserve.”
It includes non-controversial clauses about supporting “safe learning and teaching environments, and the right to attend school free of fear, bullying and discrimination” and “all students deserve a well-rounded education – ensuring that students and schools have access to multi-cultural education, art, music, theater, dance, physical education, and career-technical classes.”
But, the pledge also includes political positions of the teachers’ union, in the following clauses:
“WHEREAS, public schools should serve as centers of the community, not profit centers with taxpayer dollars diverted to private voucher schemes and unaccountable corporate charter schools; and
WHEREAS, California has always been a place for DREAMers and supports safe-haven schools and sanctuary cities that reflect and embrace the diversity of our students and their families, as well as the rich language and cultural assets they bring to our communities.”
The website also provides a variety of posters that can be used, including one that shows two hands in a handshake with the words “The Union Makes Us Strong.” Others promote the LGBTQ agenda with the new symbol that includes male, female and transgender.
A message left for Park Middle School Principal John Jimno seeking comment about the activities at the school proposed for next week was not returned.
An email was sent to Board President Walter Ruehlig, who is out of town on vacation, all board members and Superintendent Stephanie Anello asking if they were aware of this, if it was a district-wide effort and if they supported it.
Anello responded, “I am looking into this and will get back to you. I was unaware that this went out, etc. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.”
Board Vice President Debra Vinson said “I hadn’t heard of it. That’s news to me” and that there are “so many things that we need to reel in.”
In a later email message from Anello, she said Jimno was not aware of the memo, either and that he would be contacting the teacher who sent it.
“I was unaware of the email as was Mr. Jimno as he was out of the office yesterday,” Anello wrote. “According to Mr. Jimno, nothing has gone out to students or their families about this. CTA and its membership certainly have a right to free speech and expression that would include their ability to wear red and make posters and comments on the issues and to encourage their membership to do so. However, there is no legal basis for taking class time to direct students (or non-CTA staff) to do so as it is not part of a district approved curriculum. Mr. Jimno has already reached out to the teacher who sent the email and she will send out clarification letting teachers know.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention,” she concluded.
On the Marxists.org website it provides background about the first International May Day.
“In his preface to the fourth German edition of the Communist Manifesto, which he wrote on May 1, 1890, Engels, reviewing the history of the international proletarian organizations, calls attention to the significance of the first International May Day:
As I write these lines, the proletariat of Europe and America is holding a review of its forces; it is mobilized for the first time as One army, under One Bag, and fighting One immediate aim: an eight-hour working day, established by legal enactment…. The spectacle we are now witnessing will make the capitalists and landowners of all lands realize that today the proletarians of all lands are, in very truth, united. If only Marx were with me to see it with his own eyes!
The significance of simultaneous international proletarian demonstrations was appealing more and more to the imagination and revolutionary instincts of the workers throughout the world, and every year witnessed greater masses participating in the demonstrations.”
On the same website the French Marxist, communist activist, essayist, and journalist, Boris Souvarine is quoted from his work entitled, The Call, published in 1920 about the Communist roots of May Day celebrations.
“Since the foundation of the Communist International, containing all the revolutionary forces of the world proletariat, the international manifestation of May Day has taken on a character of working-class solidarity which it never possessed before,” Souvarine wrote.
“Previously, when the Second International had resolved to choose the first day of May as the occasion to affirm the universal fraternity of the workers, the annual demonstration of the exploited of every country was a luminous symbol. But the Second International shed itself of its revolutionary spirit, and sunk more and more in opportunism, whilst the general strike of the May Day also lost its revolutionary spirit, for which was substituted an overweening concern for the ‘practical.’ And during the war when, more than ever, the solidarity of the proletariat was a pressing necessity, when Imperialism intensified the oppression and the exploitation of the producing class, the International backed out, and its weakening parties traitorously renounced the traditional celebration of May Day.”
On the CTA website, it explains why it chose May 1st and that it’s part of a national effort in coordination with the National Education Association (NEA), the national teachers’ union. They want parents and community members to support the effort at local schools, as well.
“Why May 1?
May 1st has been historically linked to international worker’ rights. On May 1, 1886, the U.S. Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions (including immigrant workers) ruled that an 8-hour work day, would be a full and legal work day. NEA and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) are also holding a national day of action on May 1. May 1, or May Day, continues to be a national day of action to raise awareness about immigration rights and the need to keep families together as they fight for a better life.
How can I get involved?
CTA is asking our local chapters and members to hold actions with parents and community members at their local school sites. Actions may include “walk-ins” with parents and community members, unveiling new safe zone policies and safe zone resolutions, taking the pledge, hosting community meetings, and more. Please join our Facebook group and fill out our form to let us know how you are participating.”
However, nothing could be found on the NEA’s website regarding a national day of action on May 1st.
Nothing could be found on the NEA’s website regarding a national day of action on May 1st. However, on the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools’ website, their May 1st day of action is entitled “Build Schools Not Walls” and is about opposing President Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico and education for illegal immigrant students.
That website states, “Every community deserves quality public schools where immigrants are welcome and kids & families are safe, respected, and loved.”
Further, it states, “Join millions nationwide on May 1st, 2017:
Demand an end to mass deportation and threats to immigrant communities
Demand our schools be safe spaces free from the threats of ICE raids, racism, and bullying
Demand that billions not be spent on a wall, but on strengthening public schools to educate all our children regardless of immigration status.”
However, the AROS website only shows a few sites throughout the U.S. participating in their Day of Action and the only one in California is in Los Angeles.