No anarchy club in Kanawha County, WV

See: Justice for Katie Sierra: The latest from Katie and her attorney, and how you can help

A WEST VIRGINIA JUDGE has upheld the three day suspension of a 15-year-old high school student for wearing T-shirts with messages such as: "When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America." She had also attempted to form an anarchy club. Circuit judge James Stucky said that free speech rights are "sacred" but are "tempered by the limitations that they ... not disrupt the educational process." James Withrow, lawyer for the Kanawha County Board of Education, argued that an anarchy club was inappropriate because students "do not feel that their school is a safe place anymore. Anarchy is the antithesis of what we believe should be in schools."

But an anarchist club seem to be ok in a Fremont, CA high school ...

Members lobby for human, animal rights Irvington students form `anarchist' club

BY DANA HULL
San Jose Mercury News Staff Writer
Published January 24, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News

Irvington High School has a chess club, a ski club and the Little Saigon Vietnamese club. But a group of sophomores have recently formed the school's first real political club and call themselves the Anarchist Student Union.

The club's goal is to bring issues such as sweatshop labor and the controversial decisions of the Fremont school board to the forefront of campus discussions. The students gather every Wednesday during their lunch period and have a faculty adviser.

``We're surprised that we got the club approved,'' said club president Anna Propas, 15. ``We're the misfits of Irvington. We don't conform to what society thinks is normal.''

Anarchy technically means an absence of government and lack of order. However, it has taken on different meanings and attracts adherents from across the political spectrum. There are eco-anarchists, communist anarchists, radical anarchists and libertarian anarchists. And not all people who call themselves anarchists agree on the movement's terminology or various schools of thought.

Anarchy has a long political history, both in the United States and abroad, from the reform efforts of Emma Goldman during World War I and afterward to the trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the 1920s. The explosive word often engenders images of pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails, or black-clad young people in Seattle smashing Starbucks windows during the recent World Trade Organization riots.

``When a lot of people think of anarchy, they think of violence,'' said Ian Morris, 15. ``It's really a form of self-governance and self-rule. But most people don't realize that.''

The universal symbol for anarchy -- an ``A'' in a circle -- appears spray-painted at youth hangouts all over the Bay Area. And Bound Together Books, an anarchist bookstore in San Francisco's Haight neighborhood, has become a mecca for young people interested in learning more about the issue.

At Irvington, the small club is made up primarily of Anna and a dozen of her friends, many of them vegans and vegetarians who care deeply about animal rights. Several expressed frustration that their peers seem consumed by shopping and buying the latest trendy consumer goods. But the students also agreed that their immediate challenge is explaining to other students what anarchy means.

Proponents say anarchy has become increasingly attractive to young people in part because much of their behavior -- skateboarding, smoking, being late to school, punk-rock fashion -- has been criminalized. The spate of school shootings last year has inspired school districts across the country to crack down with stringent dress codes, metal detectors and tough truancy laws, leaving little room for the teenage rebellion once seen as a normal rite of passage.

Irvington's students do not advocate total chaos, and in fact appear willing to work within ``the system.'' Many anarchy club members regularly attend Fremont Unified school board meetings, and have eloquently spoken to trustees about the need to improve Irvington's honors program.

Irvington's administration also has been supportive of the club's efforts to politicize the high school campus.

"Initially, the name anarchist sort of caught our attention,'' said Irvington Principal Pete Murchison. ``But I'm a former social studies teacher, and as a learning institution I think it's important that we give kids a number of opportunities to connect with each other. They are very politically active students, and they have a lot of insight as to what is going on.''

This spring, the club plans to investigate whether the company that manufactures graduation caps and gowns uses sweatshop labor and to push school officials to find an alternative manufacturer.

Members say they hope to raise political awareness about global issues and are articulate in expressing their point of view.

``Even the U.S. government has fallen into a lull on many important free-trade issues concerning human rights and economic development in Third World countries,'' said Anna Propas. ``It's not so much that they ignore the issues but chose half solutions rather than facing the underlying issue or the cause of the problem.''

Members of the Anarchist Student Union also hope to shake their fellow students out of what they call political apathy.

``At Irvington everybody has their clique and they just like to follow along with the crowd,'' said Ariel Schwitalla, 15. ``We're the salmon running against the stream.''

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Contacts:

email for Katie Sierra: anarchistgirlie@aol.com

James Withrow, lawyer for the Kanawha County Board of Education

Sissonville High School
6100 Sissonville Drive
Charleston, WV 25312
(304) 348-1954
Principal Forest Mann
fmann@access.k12.wv.us

Circuit judge James Stucky West Virginia ...

STUCKY, JAMES C.
Judge, 13th Jud
Circuit Kanawha County JudAnnex
111 Court Street
Charleston, WV 25301
304/357-0364

James C. Stucky
937 Chappell Rd.,
Charleston, WV 25304

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