LIBCOM.COM: Massive student victory at for-profit cosmotology school with the Portland Solidarity Network

Career College Central Summary:

  • The Inner City Committee of the Portland Solidarity Network announces a massive victory at a local for-profit beauty school, which stands as a possible future for student organizing.
  • “Hello, my name is Kaitlin. Can I tell you about how I was suspended after reporting sexual harassment?”
  • Kaitlin addresses passersby with the kind of enthusiasm that comes when you have dug in your heels and are determined to fight back. As fifteen members of the Portland Solidarity Network(PDXSol) and supporters of Kaitlin stood in front of the Phagans School of Hair design, they handed out flyers telling the story of Kaitlin’s removal from school when she raised her voice about the experiences she had been having as a student.
  • Following her dream of becoming a hair stylist, Kaitlin enrolled in Phagans two years ago to complete their cosmetology degree program. Over the time she had there she was repeatedly forced to undergo sexual harassment, body shaming, and bullying from both faculty and other students. When she finally raised the issue to the compliance officer, she was denied to the ability to speak without the offending faculty in the room with her. She demanded that an investigation happen and that she be allowed to change campus locations so that she could finish her schooling. When she returned to see the investigation, it was barely a paragraph and they had simply interviewed a couple other students about their experiences. None of it seemed to take her victimization seriously, or delved any deeper into the claims that she had made. They then offered her a piece of paperwork that she was asked to sign if she wanted to be allowed to finish school. This absolved her of any legal rights to pursue her complaints, leaving her without any options. When she suggested that she might seek legal council, she was screamed at to the point of tears and made to leave.
  • This now left Kaitlin almost $25,000 in debt with only six weeks left of schooling, which she was not being allowed to complete.
  • Instead of moving on to another school, she decided to organize a campaign to put pressure on Phagans to let her in. She began with pickets at their Portland campus, and then contacted the Portland Solidarity Network about developing a campaign that could target the issues at play in her situation. Together, they organized a demand delivery, which laid out exactly what she was asking for. First, she wanted to have the extra fees dropped that were leveled against her when she went on maternity leave to give birth to her daughter. Second, to drop the extra “re-enrollment” fees that she would have to have to switch campuses since she never wanted to un-enroll in school in the first place. Third, to have the school follow their own policy on both complaints and sexual harassment, where a culture of unprofessionalism and interpersonal harassment between students and faculty was allowed to develop. And fourth, and most importantly, for Kaitlin to be allowed to finish the last weeks of her schooling at the campus of her choice. The demand delivery took place at Phagans’ Clackamas campus, which is the main office for the owner. Here the demands were read out loud with dozens of supporters in tow as Phagans staff yelled and harassed the protesters. Phagans was given seven days to respond, which they did and said that they would address the issue but threatened PDXSol about returning to their campuses. The next day the group returned to pass out informational flyers in front of the Portland campus, telling the story of Kaitlin’s harassment and expulsion from school.
  • Quickly after this action Phagans responded in full, with the owner sending Kaitlin a response conceding every single demand. They were going to drop all of the fees, address the sexual harassment and complaints concerns, and let Kaitlin finish school!

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