JUSTICE FOR ROUSEMARY AND JESUS!!
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago City Hall 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602
Dear Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public School Board of Education:
It has come to our attention that an active and involved parent, Ms. Rousemary Vega, has been banned from attending school board meetings and can only meet with members during office hours. By enforcing this ban, the Chicago Board of Education is violating her right to free speech and her parental right to act on behalf of her children. This ban comes after the shameful, inexcusable and violent response representatives of CPS unleashed on her husband Jesus Ramos- in front of their children - at the last Chicago public school board meeting. We have seen footage of the treatment of Rousemary Vega and Jesus Ramos via video link and also on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E0zctQfdYI.
Mr. Emanuel, as you well know, the role of public school boards is to execute the business of educating all of the children under its jurisdiction. School boards are responsible for making decisions that benefit the students that attend the schools under its purview. School boards are accountable to the public, they serve the society that depends on them to fairly and professionally manage institutions of education. The public includes parents. Actions taken by the school board are silencing them. The suppression of the voices of parents of students in Chicago Public Schools has happened often enough to be a pattern, and often enough to be construed as deliberate policy.
The Chicago Public School Board has demonstrated an alarming pattern of silencing the voices of parents of color. The Board’s unwarranted actions have worked to marginalize and disenfranchise parents across the city. The Board also has a reputation for enacting unwanted school reform policies harmful to these same communities of color.
Rousemary Vega’s attempt to educate people about the impact of limited screened enrollment, school takeovers, and charter school preferences have made on her community, her family, and her neighborhood schools is protected under the First Amendment. When the voices of hundreds of parents are ignored and plans proceed without taking into consideration the feelings of the stakeholders, there is no choice but to make oneself heard through acts of civil disobedience.
The letter sent to Rousemary characterizes her behavior without context. She spoke out as a means of protest against reforms that many contend have aided in the gentrification of neighborhoods whose schools were neglected for years then labeled failures in a convenient time for privatization efforts.
By denying her the opportunity to participate, the board is not only denying her right to free speech but also cultivating a climate of fear and mistrust that treats parents, specifically parents of color, as enemies rather than as involved community stakeholders. CPS officials frightened and emotionally traumatized the Vega/Ramos children, physically harmed their father, and caused Rousemary Vegas intense mental and emotional distress. The deliberate physical attack during a public BOE meeting, against a vocal activist family that dares to speak truth to power, is a bullying tactic that speaks volumes about the integrity, or lack thereof, CPS has toward invested families. It is bad enough that Chicago uses strong-arm tactics to gentrify communities by force, take over and shut down schools, and give preference to charters over public schools, but add those efforts to the racism and bullying of the Ramos/Vega family, and the truly sadistic nature of the Chicago Public Schools and BOE is revealed.
Please be aware that we have carefully read the letter sent to Rousemary Vega. We also carefully screened the video footage from the BOE meeting. It is evident that the letter does NOT correlate to the events in the video. We are not intimidated by the Chicago Public School district or the BOE and we have lawyers looking into this matter. In the interim, we are writing not only to make you aware of the fact that the case is being investigated by several civil liberties organizations, but also to give you the opportunity to address the situation in a fair and equitable manner. Copies of this letter are being sent in defense of Rousemary Vega, Jesus Ramos, and every other family the CPSB has attacked. It is our hope that this letter will encourage the CPS BOE to address the wrongs done to Rousemary Vega and her family.
In the name of participatory democracy, transparency, and equity, we, the Badass Teachers Association, demand that Rousemary be given her rights back, and not only that, we demand that she be given a public role, as a concerned parent, in shaping education policy in Chicago. We are watching and we are waiting. Make no mistake, if Rousemary Vega is not sent a letter encouraging her participation at the next Chicago BOE meeting, there will be ramifications and blowback from teachers and parents across the country in support of Chicago public school parents and children.
In Solidarity with the unheard parents of Chicago,
^0^ The Badass Teachers Association