Teacher sick-out shuts down nearly all Detroit schools

By Shawn Price  |  Jan. 20, 2016 at 10:37 PM
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DETROIT, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- A major sick-out shut down most of Detroit's schools Wednesday as teachers tried to call attention to the city's public school problems.

Absent teachers forced the closure of 88 schools in Detroit, locking out more than 31,000 students on the same day President Barack Obama was in town for the North American International Auto Show.

"Things have been happening for so long, and I think teachers felt like they had no voice," said special education teacher Lacetia Walker about crumbling schools and oversized classes. "We realized that nobody is coming to save us, so we have to save ourselves."

But the school district in response asked a judge for a restraining order and preliminary injunction against the teachers involved in the sick-out to force them to return to work. The emergency motion asks the Detroit Federation of Teachers, its interim president, as well as 23 specific school district teachers to conform with Michigan law prohibiting public employees from going on strike, and for $25,000 in damages.

The teachers have met with some success. They used a series of rolling sick-outs last week to point out health and safety problems in dozens of schools. After Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan toured many of the schools, he ordered inspections of all of the district's buildings.

"If they are getting pay cuts, and don't have what they need in the classrooms, the only way for them to be heard is to take a stand," said Tanisha Murray, whose daughter attends a closed foreign language immersion and cultural studies school.

"I feel like if this is the only way that someone will at least listen to all the atrocities that are going on in [Detroit Public Schools], then I support the teachers 100 percent," said Jeffrey Gisstennar, president of a parents group for one of the city's high schools. "Teachers have one of the most important jobs on the planet."

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