January 23, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Detroit, MI- Teachers calling in sick to protest abysmal conditions forced 88 city schools to close Jan. 20. The sickout, the largest in a rolling campaign that has been going on for several weeks, shut down all but nine of Detroit’s public schools, with less than 2,000 of the system’s 46,000 students able to attend classes.
“This has been a way for us to draw attention to the conditions of the buildings, the fact that teachers' STEP pay has been frozen for years,” said Lacetia Walker, an instructional specialist in special education. “We realized that nobody is coming to save us, so we have to save ourselves.” The school system responded by seeking a temporary restraining order against 28 teachers and groups, including Steve Conn, the ousted leader of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, interim union president Ivy Bailey, and DPS Teachers Fight Back, a grass-roots group that has been organizing sickouts.
The Michigan Court of Claims denied the request Jan. 21, scheduling a hearing for Monday the 25th. The DFT has officially discouraged the sickouts, as strikes by public employees are illegal in Michigan, but Bailey said in a statement that it was “regrettable that the Detroit Public Schools seeks to punish those who speak out about the deplorable conditions in our schools. It would be so much more productive to actually do something to fix Detroit schools rather than file restraining orders against those who expose the miserable conditions.” Read more