Other Group

Demand Safe Schools Coalition

Website:

www.demandsafeschools.org

Formation:

2020

Type:

Left-of-Center Activism Group

Spokesperson:

Jonathan Sith

Demand Safe Schools Coalition is a left-of-center activist group that aimed to prevent schools from resuming in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the main thrust of its efforts and messaging revolved around COVID-19, this group used the pandemic, which it referred to as a “movement moment,” as a wedge to push for a host of other left-leaning issue areas such as defunding the police and eliminating standardized testing.

It has allied with various teachers’ unions around the United States, most notably with the Chicago Teachers Union. It also has the support of several socialist groups, including the Democratic Socialist Teachers and the Democratic Socialists of America. Demand Safe Schools is allied with the left-of-center policy and voter mobilization groups Center for Popular Democracy and Journey for Justice, and is a member of the Action Network. [1]

Advocacy

Using the slogan “Equity or Else,” Demand Safe Schools advocates for the removal of police officers from schools, rent cancellation and foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, and increased funding for Title I programs and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Demand Safe Schools’ requests also include a moratorium on new charter schools or voucher programs, and the increased taxes. [2]

Claiming a cost of $245 billion to safely reopen schools in 2020, Demand Safe Schools also insisted that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos should pay to fund the reopening, since his wealth had purportedly grown by $68 billion during the pandemic. [3]

Protest Actions

On August 3, 2020, Demand Safe Schools organized the National Day of Resistance against the reopening of in-person schooling. The action consisted of 38 protests across the nation, and included demands for smaller classes, personal protection equipment for school staff, elimination of standardized testing, removing police officers from schools, and rent cancellation. One of the protests included people dressed as Uncle Sam carrying coffins. Another protest in Wisconsin featured fake gravestones inscribed with “RIP Grandma caught covid helping grandkids with homework.” Similar protests were held in September 2020 and January 2021, but the group was unable to stop the reopening of in-classroom learning. [4]

As part of a protest with the Montgomery County Education Association in Rockville, Maryland, Demand Safe Schools insisted that Verizon and Comcast should offer free internet to students. This free internet access would ideally be extended for the duration of remote schooling, until at least 60 days after the resumption of in-person classes. The protest consisted of a “car caravan” that lead up to Comcast and Verizon stores in Rockville. [5] [6]

Open Letter to President Biden

Following the election of President Joe Biden (D) in 2020, Demand Safe Schools, along with a coalition that included Democratic Socialist Teachers, Arizona Educators United, and the Chicago Teachers Union, signed an open letter that made financial and policy requests from the incoming administration. The letter disparaged President Donald Trump’s administration as “a malicious, sustained attack on public education from the federal government.” The letter went on to lament the purported inequities brought to the surface by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to request increased funding for schools. [7]

Leadership

Jonathan Stith is a spokesperson for Demand Safe Schools. He is also a founding member and national coordinator for the National Alliance for Educational Justice. He is the former executive director for Youth Educational Alliance. In 2021, just before its January 12 protest, Stith hosted a Demand Safe Schools webinar featuring members of the Chicago Teachers Union, Alliance for Quality Education, Boston Teachers Union, and Journey for Justice. Stith has also supported defunding of police and removing safety officers from schools. [8] [9]

References

  1. Demand Safe Schools Coalition. Action Network. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://actionnetwork.org/groups/educational-equity-or-else-august-3-coalition ^
  2. “National Day of Resistance August 3.” Demand Safe Schools. Accessed December 19, 2022.  https://www.demandsafeschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Flyer-for-August-3-with-endorsers.pdf ^
  3.  “Resources.” Demand Safe Schools.” Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.demandsafeschools.org/resources/ ^
  4.  Smith, Jayne. Protestors Across U.S. Demand Safe Reopening of Schools in National Day of Resistance.” Left Voice. August 4, 2020. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.leftvoice.org/protesters-across-u-s-demand-safe-reopening-of-schools-in-national-day-of-resistance/ ^
  5. “We Want Safe Healthy Equitable Schools.” MCEA. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.mceanea.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/07/Aug.-3rd-Day-of-Action-Flyer.pdf ^
  6. Strauss, Valerie. “With Coronavirus Cases Reported at Some Reopened Schools, Protesters Take to the Streets with Fake Coffins.” Washington Post. August 4, 2020. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/08/04/with-coronavirus-cases-reported-some-reopened-schools-protesters-take-streets-with-fake-coffins/ ^
  7. “Democratic Socialist Teachers.” Facebook. December 8, 2020. Accessed December 19, 2022.  https://www.facebook.com/democraticsocialistteachers/posts/873726450031402/ ^
  8. “Jonathan Stith.” NEPC. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://nepc.colorado.edu/author/stith-jonathan ^
  9. “Demand Safe Schools Coalition Webinar.” Facebook. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=749466429255714 ^
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