The Dallas Examiner
Gas leaks, leaking roofs, classrooms that are too hot or too cold and bad food leave students feeling neglected and that the Dallas ISD and the city of Dallas just doesn’t care about them.
Students at South Oak Cliff High School said these are the conditions they have had to deal with on a daily basis for several years. After years of suffering, hundreds of students at SOC had enough and staged a walkout protest at 3 p.m. during school on Dec. 7.
Senior David Johnson, a quarterback on the high school football team and a member of the Mayor’s Star Council, led the protest. He sent an announcement to the media to help get the message out.
“The purpose of our assembling is to expose to our school board and city of Dallas, the horrible conditions of South Oak Cliff, where we attend,” he wrote. “The building leaks … the building is cold and damp … parts of the building have classrooms with unbearable heat because the temperature cannot be regulated. Students have to be instructed in hallways instead of regular classrooms. Students have taken ill because of the temperature extremes. When it rains, the roof leaks terribly … the hallways are riddled with buckets.”
During an interview, Johnson said these problems have been going on since he was a freshman.
“This past year has been the worst,” he said. “In the hallways, there is no ceiling and they have been working on that since the end of last year. When we came back to school this fall, it looked the same as we left last year for summer break. It makes me question ‘What have you been doing all summer?’ When it rains, it rains so bad that it leaks and it leaks so bad that the roof from the tiles fall.”
Johnson went on to say that he has witnessed some of his peers pass out due to the extreme hot temperatures on certain days. Also, another student said that she witnessed a girl bust her head from falling down due to the leaking roofs and wet floors.
Johnson said SOC alumni have addressed the situation with Mayor Mike Rawlings. Rawlings responded that they needed to speak with the Dallas ISD School Board members.
“The school board has not done anything,” Johnson said. “We decided to take a plan of action by protesting because we are the ones that have to go through these conditions.”
Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa held a previously scheduled community meeting with parents on Dec. 7. During that time, he briefly discussed the building conditions with concerned parents.
“After talking to Hinojosa, they are keep going to do the same thing that they have done before, which is to try and put in money to temporarily to fix things,” Johnson said. “I feel like that they don’t care about us as much as we should be cared about.”
Johnson is among several students, along with parents and alumni, who feel the best solution is to build a new SOC school. However, Dallas ISD officials have said that will not be happening, at least for another year.
In November, Dallas voters approved a $1.6 billion bond for the school district, of which the district said $13 million would go toward renovations for SOC.
Furthermore, Dallas ISD spokesperson Andre Riley does not believe the school is in poor condition.
“South Oak Cliff High School is a healthy and safe environment for students to attend school,” Riley said. “In order to replace the heating and cooling system, upgrade it, and make it more efficient and reliable, we had to remove the roof panel in the hallways at the school so we can access the piping and wiring. This has not created an unsafe or unhealthy environment for students, but we recognize that this is not ideal, especially aesthetically to conduct this project. Students have also complained about the regulations of the temperature which is something we are working on and hope to have completed before February 2016.”
But safety is an issue according to students who stated that the school also had a gas leak right after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“They didn’t tell our parents and didn’t even evacuate the school,” Angelica Scuriy said. “We stayed in there and we were supposed to leave. I’m a freshman and I just got here. I want to go to a school where I can learn. It’s just not about bare ceilings, it’s about the environment and in order to learn you have to have a good environment to learn in. That’s why there was a protest, because we feel like we are not being treated right.”
There is a long list of complaints among many of the students.
Treveon Washington, a sophomore, said there’s one word that describes the situation he and his classmates are in.
“It’s prison,” he insisted. “It’s that bad because the ceiling is messed up, the food is horrible, and they don’t care about education. We have teachers that walk out of class, teachers that come to school every other day and we have classes with permanent subs. I blame former Superintendent Mike Miles for the situation that we are in and not Michael Hinojosa because he wasn’t here most of the time that we have had to go through these problems. The school board members haven’t done anything. How can they help out Lake Highlands and other high schools but when it comes to our neighborhoods, nothing is being done?”
The young leader expressed his disappointment that Dallas ISD Trustee Lew Blackburn, who represents his district, hasn’t done anything to address the issues they face.
“I don’t see what he has done in our community, with our school in particular,” Johnson said. “It also bothers me that we have had four principals in four years. How can you create change when you are inconsistent with your leaders? Also, I disagree with the statement from DISD that our school is a safe place to attend. Those people are on the outside looking in. They don’t experience what we experience. We are considered a low-performing school but we also have low-performing conditions that we are in. We are going to continue to do whatever it takes and whatever we can to get what we need. We deserve better.”