ANTIOCH, Tenn. - Hundreds of students at Antioch High School walked out due to multiple grievances they said they have with the school and administration.
The walkout began around 8:30 a.m. Friday and lasted about an hour. The students initially stood in the parking lot and toward the edge of the property before moving onto the football field near the school.
Friday morning, the students released a list of grievances, which they said were as follows:
- Administration’s decision to deny all applicable students the opportunity to take the PSAT, ruining their chances to qualify for National Merit Scholar scholarships
- Extremely strict dress code that removes students from their learning environment based on what they are wearing
- The fragmentation of school clubs and activities due to the denial of fundraising
- Cancelation of Senior Week and all senior activities
- Lack of adequate facilities
- Vacancy of teachers for crucial classes
- Unorganized administration
- Failure to involve students in the decision making of school policies
- Unfair and unequal treatment of staff members
- Failure of administration to respond to student concerns in a timely manner
- Cafeteria food that is moldy or undercooked and therefore unable to be consumed
- Lack of fair discipline
- Having an unlicensed principle for half of the school year
- Discontinuation of Fee Waivers for students in tough financial situations
- Tardy Policy that is extremely strict and unwarranted
"We wanted to all come and show that as a student body, this is our school and our voice," said Jerome Dooley Jr.
Many of the grievances surrounded first-year principal Dr. Keiva Wiley.
Earlier this year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered Wiley was one of several new hires by Superintendent Dr. Shawn Joseph who weren't properly licensed in the state of Tennessee.
Administration had not yet responded to each individual grievance; however, they confirmed they were working with the community and staff to work through the issues.
The students also released a speech written for and given at the walkout. To read it in its entirety, click here.
Dr. Wiley's latest action, however, is being called the straw that broke the camel's back. On Friday, she fired popular head football coach Mike Woodward.
"Winning is sort of the cure all to everything. When you win, everybody is happy. When you're not winning you do run into some bumps in the road," said Metro Schools Athletic Director Roosevelt Sanders.While Antioch only won three games last season - parents and players said the program was making big improvements.
"The kids were excited, and we were getting kids to go to college and we were stressing things beyond what happens on the football field," said Woodward, speaking to NewsChannel 5.
Students and alumni said they believed Woodward's firing is just the tip of the iceberg.
"From what they've said it's been an intense work environment and you can see that as evidence in the teachers that have left and the amount of subs they have at Antioch High School." said Demarco Moore an Antioch High alumni and former football player.
"i don't think they're doing what's best for the kids," said Woodward.
Teachers there told NewsChannel 5 more than half the staff has already decided not to return next year. In fact, many teachers have already left.
"Let the numbers speak for themselves," Woodward said. "See how many teachers put in, that they plan on transferring."
NewsChannel 5 tried to talk to Dr. Wiley, but the district insisted she was unavailable.
A recorded message was sent to parents from the school Thursday night about a possible alternative to the protest.
"Upon arrival to the gym, collect paper and writing utensils so the concerns can be documented. Document your concerns a place it in the box at the nearest exit."
Hundreds of students, however, chose to walk out.
Officials with Metro Nashville Public Schools released the following statement Friday afternoon:
"A few hundred students at Antioch High School participated in a peaceful walkout today in response to a personnel issue involving the football coach. Personnel matters at schools are at the discretion of the principal. We are working with the administration at Antioch High School to resolve this issue with the community."
Woodward said he didn't get a chance to speak to members of the football team after he was told he would be fired as the football coach.
"I just want them to know how much I've enjoyed my time with them," Woodward told NewsChannel 5. "They will always be a part of my family, and I hope they feel the same way. I will always be there for them if they need anything."
Dr. Shawn Joseph visited the high school Monday following Friday's walkout.
I met with some incredible students at Antioch HS today. Antioch students have "Bear Pride". Their insight and passion moved me. pic.twitter.com/vuDhdcRVQI— Shawn Joseph (@MNPSDirector) March 13, 2017
Mrs. Plummer at Antioch HS and her students are awesome. Thank you for all that you have done for 26 years to get our kids college ready. pic.twitter.com/A6wkXtxVNP— Shawn Joseph (@MNPSDirector) March 13, 2017
He also issued the following letter:
Dear Antioch High staff and community partners:
The viewpoints expressed by student demonstrators on Friday caused me great concern. I visited Antioch this morning to personally speak with Dr. Wiley and separately with some student leaders. It is clear that Antioch is beloved by its student body and they organized the walkout on Friday because they want opportunities to succeed and they want the school to be great for everyone, including staff.
Every student and employee deserves to be in a welcoming and positive school environment. Antioch High School has many strengths on which we want to build, including strong academic pathways and extracurricular activities. We have to make sure the school continues to become even stronger and that comes by us paying close attention to issues of culture and working with staff, parents and students to take the school to the next level.
I have assembled a team to thoroughly examine the issues that have been raised as well as the overall culture of Antioch High School. Even if some of the complaints turn out to be misunderstandings or misperceptions, we have to acknowledge that perception is reality, and so we must and will do better.
Dr. Wiley assured me that she is fully committed to working collaboratively with students and staff to resolve the concerns at hand and better communicate with all stakeholders going forward. An open dialogue is essential for a healthy culture where staff feel supported, students feel nurtured and everyone feels valued.
I will be deploying staff to Antioch this week to gather input from you, your colleagues and Antioch students. These will be independent research staff who will be charged with unearthing the root causes of the issues that have been raised so that we can develop a proactive plan to address them. This work may have to continue after you return from spring break to ensure we are completely thorough.
Look for details to be shared soon on how you can help us with this process. Thank you for your commitment to our students and to Antioch.
Dr. Shawn Joseph
Director of Schools
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