Last Monday, students in several Detroit High Schools walked out of class in solidarity with their teachers. On that day, Detroit public schools had gone to court to try and stop the so-called sick-outs, organised by teachers to protest the appalling conditions in the schools. The judge threw out the request.
Classes in the city can be as high as 40, the buildings are in shocking condition, with stories of mold and rats common as well as a lack of basics like heating and air conditioning. Teachers have taken pay cuts in the face of the increasing indebtdedness of Detroit schools.
Students defied threats of suspension and further disciplinary action to walk out and demonstrate their support for their teachers. One 17 year old told the local press: 'This is about Detroit public schools. We are speaking for students who cannot speak for themselves like the elementary and middle school students. We are all their voices. We are one.' Many parents also supported the demonstrations. Another said, 'Although we're not in the classroom, the teachers are teaching us a lesson: to stand up for what we believe in.'
The unelected man who has been drafted in to run Detroit Public School is the same one who is responsible for residents of nearby Flint having a contaminated water supply, which is causing a major scandal in the US at the moment. His reaction to the sick-out protests was to issue an order requiring teachers to inform him in writing if they knew of any colleagues who were organising the protests, failure to do so would lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissals.
The sick outs were started by a campaigning group within the Detroit teachers union, called DPS Teachers Fight Back..