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A Valedictorian Speaks Truth To Power

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"Destabilize the status quo." - Axel Brito

Throw Them Caps!
Throw Them Caps!
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Earning the highest Grade Point Average in a class of 300 students is a spectacular achievement. For his hard work, Axel Brito earned the chance to address his classmates at their graduation ceremony and rally them as they all took a step into their future. Brito chose to use his time to confront his school board member for his support of charter schools and a privatization agenda that commoditizes students.

In a district that regularly ignores the law and attempts to silence parents, it should not be a surprise that the reaction by school officials was to try to end Brito's speech. However, with the support of the audience, Brito bravely carried on and eventually made it through his entire prepared text. His words are powerful and are printed below.

The actions of the district were no different than when Florida officials tried to censor a class president for violating DeSantis' Don't Say Gay law. That student also persevered, providing hope that this generation is well prepared to provide the leadership that our current crop of politicians has lacked. These students must have had great teachers.

Brito's Speech:

Before I commence, let us have a moment of silence for the 19 Uvalde students who will never have the opportunity to graduate as we do today.

"Achieve the honorable." This motto has been driven through us repeatedly at every stage of our high school career, and during this time I have come to meet dedicated teachers who embody this to a tee. Teachers of this and other schools dedicate their lives laboring for us, the students, because they want and need our generation to succeed and change the future for the better.

Yet, at times the soundness of it falters. After all, does achieving the honorable mean lying about your volunteer hours and having this deed actively encouraged by the administration? Does it mean to have your grades, including my own, artificially inflated through the lowering of standards and driving our overworked teachers up a wall because of it? Does it mean to leave students unpunished for their transgressions to save face? Does it mean to lie and keep parents out of the loop during events that put us in danger, and more so to have a security system that is in no way keeping us safe? Does it mean to blame students due to the school's own incompetence? I'd like to think not.

Despite this, I don't blame this school for its wrongdoings, after all this is something that is learned through example.

Nick Melvoin for one abused his position and diverted district resources for his re-election campaign. A campaign which itself is funded not by us, the parents who have children in LAUSD schools, but by external multimillion and multibillion-dollar charter-based super PACs. He is not the man of the people; he is merely a puppet for those who put him into power. Look no further than in 2019 when he provided confidential information to the California Charter School Association, one of his many donors, while the district was being sued to prevent funds from being spent to make schools more accommodating for the disabled. So much for "putting kids first."

Further so, we have Mà nica Garcà a as another instance of this charter-centric rhetoric as she too is funded heavily by charter-based organizations. Under the guise of choice and neoliberal ideals, she has ravaged this district with a heavy expansion of charter schools without taking its students into account. Rather she refers to special education students as not "our own kids" and says that "our biggest problem is that most of our kids, all of our kids, can't read."

Tanya Ortiz-Franklin and Kelly Gonez don't escape scrutiny either as they too are a result of charter super PACs and as such are willing to turn a blind eye to charters which allows these pro-charter board members to outvote those that hold the interests of our students.

Therefore, it is no surprise when these board members set out to close and convert Pio Pico Middle School and Orville Wright Middle School into charter schools. Schools they deem as failing due to low enrollment rates as the charters around them owe over 13 million dollars to the district. They don't have our interests at heart, they have those of the multimillion-dollar charter school industry instead.

Astonishingly our previous superintendents, John Deasy and Austin Beutner, were magnitudes worse as they were put into power by the late billionaire Eli Broad and his heavily charter-centered foundation. Both of these men were put there with no experience in education and left amid controversy and successfully paved the way to privatizing LAUSD. Broad disrupted our education to achieve a district half composed of charters. He, alongside The Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation, wormed their way through this district to privatize our human right of an education.

Our district may claim higher graduation rates, and this year's class can attest to that. But, does moving a goalpost closer and closer each year truly mean a growth in students? No, it doesn't, it just guarantees that we graduate and are pushed into a world we are not ready for. Our students don't know what failure is because the district and schools themselves will not allow it as they pass extensions and recovery classes time after time.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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