Yesterday, posted on the Michigan Radio website, there was this:
“The Detroit Public Schools wants to force teachers to stop ongoing “sickout” protests.
“The district has asked the Michigan Court of Claims to stop the rolling protests that closed 88 Detroit schools Wednesday.
‘DPS has requested the court’s intervention in addressing the ongoing teacher sick outs that are plaguing the district,’ spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement, adding: “There will be no further comment until we receive direction from the court.’
“The district is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the sickouts, which it believes are illegal strikes.
“The motion names the Detroit Federation of Teachers, several informal groups helping organize the sickouts, and a number of individual teachers.”
Then, on the front page of the New York Times today, it says the following:
“Detroit’s public schools are a daily shock to the senses, run down after years of neglect and mismanagement, while failing academically and teetering on the edge of financial collapse. On Wednesday, teachers again protested the conditions, calling in sick en masse and forcing a shutdown of most of the city’s almost 100 schools.
“As Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, grapples with the crisis in Flint, where residents have been poisoned by the local water supply under a state-appointed emergency manager, he has also had to confront the emergency here, another poor, largely African-American city with a problem that has also festered under state control.”
Then, later today, from the office of Ivy Bailey, interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, there was this:
“The DFT is pleased that the [Michigan Court of Claims] denied the [Detroit Public Schools] district’s request for an immediate restraining order. We look forward to continuing the fight for our members, our community and the schools our kids deserve.”
First of all, the court made the right call. Because any attempt to punish DPS schoolteachers for protesting the absurd and near-dystopian conditions of the school system in which they have valiantly attempted to teach young children for years, with barely a soul paying attention to their grievances, is akin to forcing the citizens of Flint to pay late fees for the water that has been poisoning them which – in case you haven’t been following – is exactly what the Flint Water Department has been attempting to do. Simply to point out that the insanely ridiculous and inexcusable has become the new normal in both Flint and Detroit. In fact, crazy has been the norm in both of these predominantly black, predominantly poor cities for quite some time now.
As has been pointed out numerous times in recent weeks, these are the kinds of conditions that would never, ever be accepted in ‘certain’ communities surrounding Detroit that are not, shall we say, predominantly black and poor. Teachers would not be forced to take drastic action, threatening their own livelihoods, simply to force consideration of the rather meager request for a normal, clean and safe working environment.
Critics of the teacher ‘sickouts have repeatedly tried to demonize them as somehow shortchanging the poor students who need an education. If they cared so much about that education, then why did they wait until now to become so adamant about it? And exactly what kind of education do they think these children are receiving in buildings that even Mayor Mike Duggan has described as heartbreaking with rats, overflowing classrooms that are either freezing or boiling, buckling floors, and ceiling tiles that are falling onto the heads of those below?
The answer is simple; it is an education in how to be blatantly ignored until those doing the ignoring are forced to do otherwise. It is a lesson in effective and necessary protest. It is a lesson in standing up for yourself.
It is a lesson in civil and human rights.