Detroit Teacher Sick Outs, Calls for Change Disrupt District


The Michigan Court of Claims has denied a request made by Detroit Public Schools for a temporary restraining order that would have stopped teachers from calling out sick, causing dozens of schools in the area to close over the past few weeks.

However, a hearing scheduled for this Monday will give the district another chance to be heard.

The lawsuit brought on by DPS names 28 defendants, including two dozen teachers, grassroots groups, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, ousted DFT president Steve Conn, and interim president Ivy Bailey, reports Ann Zaniewski for The Detroit Free Press.

The decision to deny the request came only one day after 88 district schools were forced to close as a result of teacher sick-outs organized in an effort to call attention to a number of dangerous problems in the public school system, including large class sizes, depleting resources, and buildings that are falling apart.  Teachers in the area protested at the North American International Auto Show while President Barack Obama was visiting on Wednesday.

Conn is now pushing for teachers to call out sick on Monday in order to be able to attend the hearing.

“This is the future of Detroit, so everybody should be there,” Conn said in a meeting he held with his supporters late today in a church basement. “This builds to a city-wide strike. It’s the way now for all Detroit to get our schools back.”

Conn’s lawyer, Shanta Driver, is also saying teachers should call out sick that day, adding that the sickouts are building up to a strike.

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens wrote in the one-page order that the request had been denied because DPS had not met the requirements of a court rule concerning temporary restraining orders that are requested without first telling the other party involved.  The DFT has not been served notice of the suit.

The district has been under an emergency manager for the past six years.  However, teachers participating in the sick-outs largely agree with Conn, who argues that the district, which enrolls 46,000 students, has gotten worse since the state took over.

The DFT not only said it did not organize the recent sickouts, but added that is not endorsing the sickout scheduled for Monday or a strike.  In large part, the sickouts have been organized by a grassroots group called DPS Teachers Fight Back.  Teachers in individual schools voted on whether or not they wanted to participate.

DPS released a statement on the issue, saying it looks forward to showing the court how seriously effected the community has been as a result of the sickouts.

According to the district’s lawsuit, the sickouts have caused area schools to lose at least seven instructional days.  In addition, it argues that students have lost out on school breakfasts and lunches, parents were forced to miss work, and nonstriking DPS employees were forced to miss work days and use taxpayer money.

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