In a time when some schools are trying to encourage science and engineering education, Franklin High School in Portland, OR not only tried to shut down FIRST team 1432 but is keeping their tools, equipment, and $7,500 the students raised for their team. An article in a local paper called The Bee quotes one of the team members:
“We found ourselves standing outside the auto shop waiting to get in on October 21st. Three times previously, Principal Shay James refused to let us have our robot for the OMSI display on October 23. Finally, James allowed us to remove the robot only. All of our computers, parts, and tools are still locked in the auto shop.”
To get an idea of how the school's actions are affecting the team, here's a quote from Team 1432's website:
It appears we will lose $3,540 from Intel and another $3500 from the grant money that came through FIRST – M.J. Murdock, Oregon Community fund. <...> The school seized all of our property – 7 years of gathering tools, equipment, building materials and computers and kept it from us for the last 31 days. We find out on Monday what they will let us have back. This has kept us from doing Girls Generation, Bunny Bots, and a second regional. It has also cost us half of our new members because of the instability and uncertainty.
The school claims none of its 100 staff members are willing to act as "advisor" for the group. The principal declined to be interviewed for The Bee's article and according to Rebecca LohKamp, "In all the years we’ve been there, a Principal has never come to see us". This apparent lack of interest was confirmed by the school's business manager who told the paper that the robotics team would conflict with plans for a more academic, classroom-based, "smaller scale" robotics curriculum.
We'd bet if this were the football team rather than a club that promotes educational activities, the school administration wouldn't have any problem finding the resources to support them. But until Shay James and the other bureaucrats get a clue, might we suggest that local robot clubs around the country get in touch with Team 1432 and ask how they can help out? One thing that might help is if a 501(c)(3) group could become their fiscal sponsor and help them recover some of their funds from the school. And it probably wouldn't hurt to let the Franklin High School staff or the Portland Public School system know what you think.
Update: The latest update on the team's website clears up a few things from The Bee article. They confirm there were at least 5 teachers willing to act as advisor but school staff "talked them out of it". The school now claims it has returned most of the team's money to the donors.