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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Event

Bushwick Community High School Gave Students a Second Chance – and students returned the favor!

Last week, in a major youth-led victory, students at Bushwick Community High School (BCHS) successfully stood up for their school and saved it from a “reorganization” that would have been tantamount to closure.

For months, students shared powerful stories with education officials, at community forums and in the media, of how BCHS has provided them with critical support and helped them turn their lives around. Many BCHS students are former high school drop-outs who had given up on themselves, or were deemed lost causes by other schools.

Moved by the impassioned testimonies from educators, administrators and students, NYC’s Chief Academic Officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, put it eloquently: “This is a school that looks at the whole child. This is a school that gives students second chances. It’s a place of redemption. It’s a family. It saves lives.”

The NYC Department of Education had placed BCHS on its list of schools scheduled for a “turnaround”. The move would have required laying off the principal and half the school’s staff, and would have effectively crippled the school’s crucial work to support many of New York City’s 140,000 over-age and under-credited high-schoolers — a critically underserved population.

BCHS was one of only two schools in a long citywide list that were spared the reorganization — and it is largely because BCHS students got organized and made a powerful case to save an institution that, for many of them, is much more than just a school. 

Read more in the New York Times column, “A Brooklyn School Saved Lives, and Some Now Try to Return the Favor”.

This is a victory for young people citywide, and it speaks to the power students have when they feel a real stake in their school’s governance, environment and outcomes. Make the Road New York is helping students throughout New York City to take ownership of their education and to play a meaningful role in the education policy decisions that affect them.

We thank the Department of Education for making the right decision and keeping BCHS open.

We also thank the many elected officials who stood with us to make the school, and its students, a priority: Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Martin Dilan, Assemblymen Vito Lopez and Rafael Espinal, City Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Council Members Diana Reyna and Erik Dilan.