Detroit Public Schools emergency manager: Using students as pawns is 'unethical'

Renaissance, King high schools cancel classes due to teacher absences

DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley said teacher sick-outs that have forced the closure of three high schools this week in the city are a misguided tactic that is harming students.

“Using students as pawns to advance a political position, in my opinion, is not only unacceptable, it is also unethical,” Earley said Thursday.

Detroit's Renaissance High School and Martin Luther King High School were forced to close earlier in the day because of teacher absences.

"Because a high number of teachers have chosen not to come to work at both Renaissance High School and Martin Luther King High School today, the District had no choice but to close the school and interrupt students' education. Parents and the community should be outraged at this blatant disregard for the importance of our students' academic achievement, as well as at them being made pawns in this political argument," said district spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

On Tuesday, a teacher sick-out forced the cancelation of classes at Cass Tech High School.

Former Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn, who has been a force behind the strikes, said to prepare for more.

"It's going to be bigger. We are planning, as a I said, it's got to build to a city-wide strike. We're going to plan action next week that Michigan will know for years to come," said Conn.

Conn said teachers are upset about compensation, growing classroom sizes and a lack of the ability to retain quality teachers in the district.

Earley doesn't disagree with the right to protest, but he's against any action that takes away the education of a child.

"I’m making a plea for the entire Detroit community to come together and to be the voice of children in Detroit," Earley said. "The time of nonsense is over."

When asked if these types of teacher sick-outs are legal under contract, Earley said he is reviewing the "legality" of it.

With tensions high, Mayor Mike Duggan sounded off about the teacher absences, pointing to Lansing leadership.

"I'm working as hard as I can, but you know, we're dealing with a Republican governor, a Republican House and a Republican Senate, and I could work as hard as I can but at the end of the day the leadership in Lansing has to have the will to get this done," said Duggan.

Check: School closing list