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State superintendent calls on Detroit teachers to end “sickout” protests

Jan 8, 2016

Credit DPS

Michigan’s education chief is urging teachers in the state’s largest district to end a recent series of “sickout” protests.

A number of Detroit Public School buildings have been forced to close in recent weeks due to the protests.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston says the sickouts are unfair to students.

“I understand that teachers in Detroit Public Schools have some real concerns about what’s going on financially, academically, and structurally – and where is the future of Detroit schools heading? But for the sake of the students they need to be in the classrooms teaching and taking care of kids,” said Whiston.

“So I’m calling on all teachers in Detroit Public Schools to end their systematic plan of not reporting to work, resulting in schools being closed and students not being taught.”

State law prohibits teachers from striking. Teachers involved in the sickouts say it’s their only way to protest issues affecting them and their classrooms.

Whiston says he’ll call a meeting of state and local stakeholders “to sit down and discuss the issues and finally put together a viable solution that will move education forward and help the children in the city of Detroit be successful.”

Nicole Conaway, a sickout organizer and high school teacher at East English Village Preparatory Academy on Detroit’s East Side, says she does not expect the protests to stop now.

“If there wasn’t these actions, (Whiston) wouldn’t be holding that meeting. So that’s why we have to continue these actions,” said Conaway.

“This is what’s required to have some direct democracy, and we’re not stopping until we have a full victory – and that would be the full restoration of Detroit Public Schools to local control.”

State law prohibits teachers from striking. Teachers involved in the sickouts like Conaway say it’s their only way to protest issues affecting them and their classrooms.