Teaching Profession

Detroit Seeks Injunction to Prevent Teacher Sick-Outs

By Denisa R. Superville — January 21, 2016 2 min read
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This item originally appeared on the District Dossier blog.

Detroit Public Schools went to court on Wednesday to get a restraining order against teachers who have been staging sick-outs that have caused several school closures in recent months.

On Wednesday, 88 of the district’s 97 schools were closed as a result of teacher sick-outs, according to the district. Since the sick-outs started, students have lost a cumulative seven instructional days, the district said in its filing in the Michigan Court of Claims.

The emergency filing sought a restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the teachers from staging further sick-outs. The list of named defendants include the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, ousted Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn, interim president Ivy Bailey, and several teachers. It also included unnamed teachers engaged in strike actions.

The motion accuses Conn, Bailey, and other defendants of engaging in organizing or encouraging others to strike.

Conn, according to the motion, has repeatedly called for and threatened a citywide strike. Michigan law bars teachers from striking.

Teachers have said that the sick-outs are intended to draw attention to poor working conditions at the schools, cuts to their benefits, and large class sizes, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers planned to hand out leaflets on Wednesday afternoon outside of the North American International Auto show, which is being held in the city, to call attention to “shameful” working conditions. President Obama was also in town to visit the auto show.

The district listed 15 “adverse impacts” of the teachers’ actions, including:

  • Depriving students of their right to attend school;
  • Adversely affecting students’ academic progress;
  • Exposing students to other risks while they are absent from school;
  • Disrupting the schedules of students’ caretakers;
  • Depriving students of school breakfasts and school lunches;
  • Wasting taxpayers’ money; and
  • Contributing to a decline in the district’s student enrollment.

Ann Mitchell, the administrator for the Detroit Federation of Teachers, told the Detroit Free Press that the union was prepared “to fight for our teachers because they’re fighting for the kids of Detroit.” She did not know whether the actions would continue, according to the paper.

“It’s amazing that DPS wants to fight this way,” she told the paper. “We’re going to stand for the teachers. We’re going to represent them. There are big issues going on that they’re trying to call attention to. No one is dealing with those issues.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.