Ottawa Township High School students have faced a mix of strong support and harsh penalties for protesting the district decision to end Industrial Arts classes.
Enrollment in the program had reportedly dropped by more than 50%, prompting the school board to vote 6-1 at their March 17, 2014 meeting to end the school’s Building Trades program and dismiss it’s full-time instructor.
The day after that decision was made, students staged a protest at the school. School officials said the demonstration became “unruly,” and more than 100 of the students involved got three-day suspensions from school according to a report shared by ABC news.
Superintendent Matt Winchester said students were given repeated verbal warnings to return to class, who protested but returned to class were not disciplined, according to a post on Ottawa Radio’s website.
Winchester said students who “failed to comply received disciplinary consequences for insubordination,” the report said.
He also denied rumors that he or board members received pay raises, saying the current academic year represents the second year of a three-year pay freeze for the superintendent and that board members are not paid.
Demonstrators took action inside and outside of the school, and were reportedly joined by local tradesmen and union members.
Now Mike Rowe, perhaps best known as the host of the television show “Dirty Jobs,” has joined the fight.
Video posted to Rowe’s website, profoundlydisconnected.com, touts the value of learning skills taught in industrial arts classes.
“I’ll be damned if I’ll stand by and watch them take it all away,” Rowe says in the video. “They can suspend me, they can banish me from the prom. I really don’t give a crap, because some things are more important than dancing.”
The protests happened the week before Ottawa students and staff took their week-long spring break.