Philly students: SRC's Simms said, ‘You belong in jail’
Things turned ugly when members of Philadelphia Student Union interrupted a film screening at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters with School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms.
In a video posted on YouTube, Simms began shouting at students sitting-in on the screening of "Won't Back Down," chanting, “SOS, save our schools,” and, “Philly is a union town.” While in the video there is too much noise to make out what Simms said, students reported that the SRC commissioner told them, “you all probably go to failing schools,” and, “you belong in jail.”
Update: Simms told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the students misinterpreted what she said, but did not clarify exactly what she said.
For parent appreciation night, the district screened “Won’t Back Down” starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film, funded by the same creators of the anti-union documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” portrays a Pittsburgh teachers’ union whose interests are aligned with maintaining the status quo rather than serving children. Philadelphia students protested the film's screening, arguing that it bashed unions and pit families against teachers, just like a recent action by the School Reform Commission.
Last week, the SRC voted to end the district’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and raise teachers’ health care costs, arguing that teachers must make sacrifices and pay their fair share to fund schools. Education advocates maintained that PFT members have made sacrifices — going years without a raise, reaching into their pockets for classroom supplies and filling in job functions of positions cut entirely from schools, like administrators, nurses, counselors and librarians.
Edit: The title was changed from "SRC's Simms to Philly students: 'You belong in jail'" to "Philly students: SRC's Simms said, 'You belong in jail.'"