Chicago, IL —
About 25 LGBT youth and allies took Chicago Public Schools by surprise Thursday evening by infiltrating its lobby and throwing a colorful protest.
The action, organized by Gender JUST, a grassroots LGBT group, was a follow-up to a large protest that took place outside of CPS headquarters two weeks prior. At both events, youth demanded that CPS immediately implement a grievance procedure developed by youth in order to help give current students a voice against harassment and discrimination by school staff and administration, including teachers and security guards.
Gender JUST youth organized the protest because of CPS' inaction. CPS has met with youth leaders several times over the past year, but activists feel that they are not being taken seriously.
"We're trying to put the pressure on," said Gender JUST co-founder Sam Finkelstein before the event.
At the event, several youth shared their own CPS experiences as examples of why the concept of a grievance procedure for students should be implemented. Former CPS students, like Lucky, a 2007 Roosevelt High School graduate, said that they were discriminated against by staff, but had no outlet.
"I did not feel safe there," Lucky shared.
Ahkia Daniels stressed that a grievance process could help make Chicago's hallways safer for all students by giving them a voice. "This is not just about homophobia," she said. "This is about oppression of everybody."
Youth chanted in the lobby for roughly 45 minutes. While CPS staff redirected employee traffic in order to avoid the noisy lobby, they never asked the protesters to leave. On multiple occasions, youth demanded that CPS CEO Ron Huberman come down and meet with them but he never made an appearance. After chanting and giving speeches and testimony, the youth left, but warned that they would be back and would not give up.
According to Finkelstein, this is the ninth time Gender JUST has come down to CPS headquarters and demand a grievance process be implemented.
"We should not have to be in this lobby," said one student. "We shouldn't need a megaphone to be heard.