Schools Should Not Look Like Jails: Remove Metal Bars Around School

bars

Target: Chute Middle School administrators

Goal: Remove the two-story metal enclosures that fence in the school building

Every day, students at Chute Middle School in Evanston, IL must pass through an enormous set of metal bars on their way to classes. These bars, which were built along with the rest of the school building in 1966, were designed to protect students from intruders and other dangers of the outside world. But the enclosures have become a mounting source of unnecessary stress for students and other members of the community, encouraging bullying and cultivating a distorted view of the neighborhood outside.

Students of Chute Middle School have repeatedly reported that their peers at nearby schools frequently tease them about the bars, which make the school building look more like a prison facility than an institution of learning. Names like “jailbird” are aimed all too often at these students, who are proud of their school and fear that others judge it too harshly for its appearance. For students on the inside, the bars promote the idea that the low-income, racially diverse area of Evanston where the school is located is a dangerous, unsavory place. By physically separating students from the surrounding community with hostile-looking structures, Chute Middle School teaches them to fear and disrespect their neighbors.

An atmosphere of fear and discomfort does not promote healthy learning. And teaching young people to look down upon those who live outside the gates of their school only fuels existing social disparities. The bars around Chute Middle School are socially destructive and mentally unhealthy. Tell school administrators that they need to be taken down at once.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Chute Middle School administrators,

The two-story metal enclosures around Chute Middle School do more than physically separate students from the surrounding neighborhood. They also perpetuate a sense of unease, discomfort and fear–both in outsiders looking in and in the students themselves. For passersby, the bars create the illusion that the students within are dangerous or disturbed. For students, the enclosures instill an irrational fear of the community outside and the residents that populate it.

An important part of any education is learning how to become a citizen of one’s community. Evanston is a diverse city with plenty to offer with regards to social and cultural learning. Barring students from the neighborhood around them only teaches them to disregard and fear the many different kinds of people who make up the city’s population. This hostile physical barrier exacerbates social tensions and creates unnecessary disease in students and residents. I ask that you take action to remove these bars immediately.

Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Anthony Albright via Flickr.

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