Three Detroit Public Schools were forced to close on Tuesday as a result of too many teachers calling in sick in protest of state control over the school system.
Teachers who called said they had “Snyder flu,” while attending a demonstration with students in protest of longstanding emergency management outside the Detroit School of Arts on Tuesday afternoon. About 15 people attended the protest, although DPS police officers quickly asked the group to disperse.
Students held signs reading things such as “Cure to Snyder Flu: A strike to win,” “Stop Snyder’s Plan to Destroy Detroit Public Education” and “Stop Snyder’s Plan to Destroy Detroit Public Schools.”
Protesters said they were frustrated by the lack of local control over their education system, arguing that the debt needs to be paid by the state in order to get the emergency managers out of the district.
The emergency managers, implemented by the state, have been in charge of the district since 2009. The elected school board was left without much power, especially after new laws were passed in 2011 and 2012 that increased the financial emergency law in the state. As a result, teachers have had to deal with pay cuts, higher health care costs and larger class sizes.
Attending protesters accused Governor Rick Snyder and Emergency Manager Darnell Earley of systemic racism, referring to the state control as “back of the bus” treatment of students in the district who do not have access to the same resources needed to succeed. They argue that districts with mainly white students receive better treatment.
“Teachers in Detroit decided to take a stand and break the new Jim Crow laws that we have in Detroit today,” said Nicole Conoway, a DPS teacher, DFT member. “The segregated, unequal conditions we have aren’t fair to the students, teachers or the people of Detroit.”
Teachers said the sick out was chosen to take place on that day in order to honor the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white man at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
The governor has suggested paying off the DPS debt, which totals hundreds of millions of dollars. That debt would be left with the existing school district, while the governor has proposed creating a new district for students.
In a statement, Earley responded to the accusations, stating that the policy disagreements that exist between the two groups should not affect the students or their instruction time and calling the teachers’ actions “seriously misguided.”
Earley went on to say that the protests do not aid in the efforts to create a sustainable school district that is under local control within the next six months, reports Shawn Lewis for The Detroit News.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers website held a message stating that it had not organized the sick out.