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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Detroit School District Sues to Stop ‘Sickouts’

(CN) - The Detroit public school district sued dozens of teachers and advocacy groups for so-called "sickouts" that have closed schools throughout the city in protest to deteriorating classroom conditions.

Tuesday's lawsuit hit the Michigan Court of Claims one day before teacher "sickouts" closed nearly all Detroit schools in protest to overcrowding in buildings beset by moldy classrooms and collapsing ceilings, according to CNN.

Advocacy groups have linked the district's response to these complaints to the Flint water crisis garnering national attention an hour's drive away.

In April 2014, Flint's water system became contaminated when the city switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River water while under control of an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

That ex-emergency manager, Darnell Earley, signed and verified Tuesday's complaint filed by the School District of the City of Detroit, which wants to quell protests related to the deteriorating conditions of public schools.

Ivy Bailey, the interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, slammed the filing of the lawsuit in a statement Thursday.

"It is regrettable that the Detroit Public Schools seeks to punish those who speak out about the deplorable conditions in our schools," Bailey said. "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."

The union took particular aim at Earley, who is now the emergency manager for Detroit's school district.

"If Mr. Earley - the same emergency manager responsible for the Flint water crisis - wants to come after teachers, we're ready for a fight," Bailey said. "We are on the front lines, fighting for our kids, families and communities. Detroit deserves better."

Before assuming his current role with the school district, Earley served as Flint's emergency manager from October 2013 to January 2015. He deflected blame for the water crisis on decisions made by Flint's mayor and city council before his tenure.

The school district's lawsuit accuses teachers and advocacy groups behind the Detroit strikes of knowingly flouting state law.

On Jan. 10, the Detroit Federation of Teachers' former president, Stephen Conn, said that "teachers strikes have always been illegal, but I've been through four of these," according to the 26-page lawsuit.

Conn added that a "full-blown strike is needed" to take the movement forward, proposing a "D-Day" on Wednesday, named after the location of a protest at the $6.6 million Diann-Banks Williamson Center that opened in Detroit two years ago, according to the complaint.

The district claims that the strikes "will have an adverse impact" on the district's 31,000 students and the public.

The School District of the City of Detroit seeks an injunction against the teachers and groups, and at least $25,000 in damages. It is represented by George Butler III of Dickson Wright in Detroit.

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