Judge denies order to stop Detroit teacher 'sick-outs'

Teachers involved in sick-out head to court Monday

DETROIT –  A Detroit judge has again denied a temporary restraining order requested by the city's school district that would force teachers to stop skipping school.

First Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens said Monday there's no proof the Detroit Federation of Teachers union or individual activists are behind the teacher absences, called sick-outs.

Action could still come later: A preliminary hearing in the case has been scheduled for Feb. 16.

The sick-outs by teachers have repeatedly forced the Detroit district to close schools during the past two weeks, keeping thousands of students at home.

Originally, 23 teachers were included in a lawsuit filed by the district, but district attorney said the district is now only targeting the DFT, interim president Ivy Bailey and former president Steve Conn.

About 60 teachers and supporters rallied outside the State of Michigan building in Detroit ahead of the hearing. Conn, an activist among the teachers, says the governor and the school district's emergency manager should be put on trial, not teachers.

“Today’s decision is one step in the right direction for Detroit’s children, their families and our members -- who have been embarrassed, violated, and treated without dignity or respect by the district. These educators have faced pay and benefit cuts and abysmal working conditions, and they want nothing more than to educate their students," Bailey said. “Our students deserve high-quality neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming and well-resourced. Sadly, this district -- under the management of Darnell Earley -- has failed to deliver on that promise. And its lawsuit against teachers is no help.

Teachers are upset over pay, class sizes, building conditions and Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to overhaul the district.

Several students also protested.

The district said students are bound by the student code of conduct.

"We respect students' right to peacefully protest. However, protests should not take place during a time when they are expected to be in class. All students are bound by the rules in the Student Code of Conduct. If there are violations of the Code, they will be investigated and reviewed for the appropriate discipline as outlined in the Code," said DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

Emergency manager Darnell Earley said students miss instruction as well as food when schools are closed.

Earley released this statement:

"The point of DPS seeking legal remedy from the Court of Claims on the ongoing teacher sick outs that are plaguing our District and its students has always been to ensure that teachers are in their classrooms teaching and students are getting the educational experience to which they are entitled.

The court proceeding today, although unfortunate in that it did not result in any immediate relief, was a necessary step the District had to take to emphasize to those who have participated in the sick outs the importance of our students being in class each and every day. The laws are written, and very clearly, so that you would not expect to have to remind educators or their bargaining unit of their legal responsibility in the midst of a school year.

There are many serious challenges facing Detroit Public Schools. It is incumbent upon all of us – the District, the DFT/AFT and the community -- to work together toward their resolution. However, if teachers are not in their classrooms, the District may have no other option but to close schools that are affected. The District looks forward to the evidentiary proceeding that has been scheduled for February 16, 2016."

Watch: Flashpoint on the crisis in Detroit's schools

Detroit has about 100 public schools and 46,000 students.

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