Justice for Katie Sierra

in:

Katie Sierra is a 15-year-old school student who has been suspended and persecuted for taking a stand against Bush’s war. Below an anarchist activist gives the latest from Katie and her attorney, and suggests how  you can help.

As of late, there has been a great deal of discussion online about the case  of Katie Sierra, and what supporters can do to lend their voices to the efforts to help Katie. On Nov. 28, I talked with Katie Sierra and her attorney, Roger Forman, and I wanted to communicate the latest news and ways they suggest people can support this case.

In case you're just learning about this case...

Katie Sierra, born in Panama, is a 15-year-old ninth grader at Sissonville  High School. in Charleston, West Virginia in the United States. She's become the subject of national media attention after the high school suspended her for anti-war sentiments and her desire to start a student anarchist club. She was suspended for three days in October for defying school orders not to form an anarchy club or wear T-shirts that include slogans opposing the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. The handwritten message  on the T-shirt that got her in trouble read: ``When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America."

The school claimed Katie's actions disrupted student learning and a Kanawha  County Circuit judge upheld the suspension. The West Virginia Supreme Court  on Nov. 27 voted 3-2 not to consider Katie Sierra's petition to prevent the lower court from "continuing to deny her freedom of speech.''  Her attorney  says federal court and other legal options are being considered.

Media reports of threats Katie's received are indeed true. She's being homeschooled right now (in a program paid for by the school) because of those threats (due to her parents' concerns, and the fact the school can't  guarantee her safety). She says she'd prefer to be in school. However, the  situation as it is has made that a problem.

For more information on Katie Sierra's case, check out:

West Virginia News: "Student files lawsuit over anarchy club"

Charleston Gazette: "Student, principal spar over anarchy club,

clothing"

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Student loses bid to form high school

anarchy  club"

Salon: "Judge rules against anti-war student"

Charleston Daily Mail: "Student plans to keep fighting"

New Haven Advocate: "Free Speech RIP"

Yahoo News: "Anarchist Teen Pulled From School"

I cannot emphasize enough, in case that's not completely clear, how the issues related to what's happening to Katie affect so many movements, from  those of us speaking out against U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, to the  rights of students to organize, to the growing legal and extralegal movements to repress, intimidate and criminalize dissent (particularly anarchists). Katie's fight is our fight, and our support of this companera is essential. Katie Sierra and Roger Forman are extremely welcoming of support from the anarchist community, and I encourage each of you concerned  about what's happened to Katie to take action. Katie, obviously, is a really great and gutsy person and she deserves support from all quarters.

Suggested actions:

a.) Please contact the high school and the county board of education to demand equal opportunity for Katie's education. She has become the target  of harassment and attacks at school, and Katie's parents have pulled her from school because school administrators cannot guarantee her safety. This  unwillingness to protect Katie from harassment on the part of Principal Forest Mann is nothing less than tacit support for student violence. Mann  has spoken to the media in opposition to Katie's right to free speech, and  the school and the board of education should take measures to give Katie the education she came to the school for -- in her classes and free from abuse. Send polite but firm letters supporting Katie's rights to education, freedom from abuse and free speech, and demanding Katie be granted security to return to school.

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

The Kanawha County Board of Education , attn.: Superintendent Ron Duerring , 200 Elizabeth St. Charleston, W. VA 2531. Melanie Vickers , Assistant Superintendent , (304) 348-7787

Board of Education Site Webmaster , sfleming@access.k12.wv.us

b.) If you are in the Charleston, West Virginia region, protests and other actions are welcomed. Roger says, "I never believe that lawyers work in isolation so I wish people would take to the streets." This represents a great opportunity for anarchists to coalesce with a wide variety of people -- from civil libertarians to peace activists to those concerned about the  increased repression many activists are experiencing. Please consider laying down plans for actions now.

c.) If you would like to make a donation, Katie and Roger suggest making a  donation to the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union (WV-ACLU), which is providing legal representation to Katie. Please make sure to indicate your donation is going to supporting Katie Sierra's case costs.

West Virginia ACLU , P.O. Box 3952 , Charleston, WV 25339

d.) Send letters in support of Katie to area newspapers, and to challenge the assertions made about anarchists.

Charleston Gazette

Charleston Daily Mail [250 words or less]

e.) Send an email in support to Katie directly. Since moving to West Virginia this summer from Florida, Katie's been in a hostile environment. Reports have covered various harassment Katie has endured. Students spit on  her mother's car at the high school. A boy wore a T-shirt signed by many Sissonville students that read: "Go back where you came from." The idea is  to silence Katie Sierra, and she deserves our support for her courageous stand. Send her an email to anarchistgirlie@aol.com (she's okayed distributing her address) to express your support.

For continued information and updates on Katie's case/status, visit: http://www.illegalvoices.org/katiesierra. We should be able to set up ways for Katie to update info herself on the site soon.