Viral Blog Post Helps Students at NYC High School

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 10:00 AM

By Courtney Coren

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A post on a popular New York City blog has gone viral and sparked a national firestorm over problems facing students at a Brooklyn-area high school.

Brandon Stanton asked to take a picture of Annette Renaud on Sunday while riding the New York City subway so he could add the picture and some comments to his blog Humans of New York. It has become Stanton's custom to ask his subjects what is on their mind.

Renaud is a parent and represents students at the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood as a member of the School Leadership Team.

"I'm currently advocating on behalf of my child and 17 other children whose parents don't speak English," she was quoted on the blog. "These kids have all done very well on their Regent's exams — I'm talking 90-95th percentile.

"They were on their way toward qualifying for an Advanced Regents government scholarship that would give their parents badly needed money to help in their eduction. But the fine print of that scholarship says the children need three full years of a foreign language," she said.

She said that the problem is that the principal of that school fired the Spanish teacher and doesn't plan to hire a new one, so now the students won't be able to qualify for the scholarship they had all been working toward.

According to The New York Times, the students and other supporters had staged protests at the school about this and other issues, but no change had occurred. Renaud said that they had also called and sent letters to the Board of Education to no avail.

"Trying to get something fixed in these schools is like praying to some false God," she said. "You call and email hoping that God is listening, and nothing happens. Meanwhile, the kids suffer."

Since the blog post went up on Sunday, it received more than 150,000 likes on the blog's Facebook page, and readers have pledged to call the school on the students' behalf.

Two change.org petitions were started — one by a reader in Michigan asking the school district's superintendent to hire a new teacher, which has received 250 signatures, and another by a Connecticut man asking the New York City Department of Education to step in, which has reached 1,000 signatures.

The school's email address and phone number were also posted, and it was reported that emails were getting sent back due to lack of data space.

Marcus Liem, deputy press secretary of the New York City Education Department, said meetings had already been scheduled between department and school officials, but they are now happening sooner.

"We continue to work closely with the school community to ensure students have access to the courses they need," Liem told The Times.

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