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Students Walk Out Of South Oak Cliff High School To Protest Crumbling Building

Bill Zeeble
South Oak Cliff High's David Johnson, a senior, helped lead Monday's protest at the high school, when about 100 kids walked out complaining about bad conditions inside

Dozens of students are so upset by the crumbling state of South Oak Cliff High School that they walked out Monday afternoon. The Dallas school district says the school is getting fixed, thanks to bond programs.

"No justice, no peace!" Students yelled the response to this familiar protest chant with a little bit of help from a member of a local nonprofit. Though these students may have been coached in some basic protest procedures, their demands sounded sincere.

“We had a gas leak about two weeks ago, and they made us stay in the school during the gas leak,” said senior David Johnson. “How can we have a gas leak within the school and we’re not evacuated from the school building? That’s not right.”

Johnson, quarterback of the football team, helped lead the protest.

“The roofing, they started on it last year and it’s still not finished. When it rains it still leaks through,” he said. “How can we learn when we’re uncomfortable? We had have classroom in a hallway.”

(Listen to David Johnson's interview with the public radio newsmagazine Texas Standard.)

Fellow senior Robert Hampton said the heating and cooling system is messed up, too.

“Sometimes it’s hot in the school,” Hampton says. "Sometimes it’s cold in the school.  I believe our teachers aren’t slaves, they’re educators.  They have a right to have a fair environment to teach in. We do, too, as the students.” 

The school was built in 1952. Dallas schools spokesman Andre Riley says repairs are under way, thanks to bond programs in 2008 and the one passed last month.

“Regarding the heating and cooling project, it’s occurring. We have every indication that we’ll begin the inspection process this week,” Riley says. “The roof of this school has been identified as a troublesome area and it needs repair. Now that we’ve gotten approval from the voters we’ll look at the best way to accomplish that project and in the most cost-efficient way and we’ll get it done.”

That new roof is expected to cost nearly $11 million.

These students, though, didn’t just demand repairs now -- they want a new school. Riley said that is unlikely.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.