Court won’t give DPS sickout restraining order

Holly Fournier and Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Michigan Court of Claims refused Thursday to issue a temporary restraining order sought by Detroit Public Schools to halt recurring teacher sickouts that have closed dozens of schools.

The court also scheduled a hearing for 11 a.m. Monday in the lawsuit filed by DPS against 23 teachers, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, interim DFT president Ivy Bailey, and organized sickout supporters such as DPS Teachers Fight Back and By Any Means Necessary.

At the hearing in Detroit, the court will hear the district’s request for a preliminary injunction barring further sickouts.

In denying the request for a restraining order, Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens wrote that DPS failed to meet court rules governing requests that are made without notifying the other parties.

According to the district’s complaint, more than 31,000 of the district’s 46,000 students have missed a day of school or more as the result of sickouts.

It asks for a court order requiring teachers to follow Michigan law, which prohibits strikes by public employees, as well as damages of more than $25,000.

All DPS schools were open Thursday, a day after a sickout forced the district to close 88 of its 97 schools.

“We look forward to the opportunity to inform the court of the serious effects that these continued sickouts have on the District,” district spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement Thursday.

Steve Conn, the ousted DFT president, has advocated teachers stage sickouts and is among those named in the suit. He laughed when read the ruling.

“This is great. It has got to be unprecedented,” he said. “It is a fair-minded action by the judge.”

At a meeting Thursday night, Conn and lawyer Shanta Driver mobilized about 30 supporters ahead of Monday’s hearing.

“I think the most important thing about the ruling today is that it gives us Monday as the next focal point for action: for teacher action, for student action, for community action to come out in support of teachers and this fight,” Driver said.

DPS teacher LaKina Moseley, who was at the meeting, said despite earning a Ph.D. she took a 10 percent pay cut and works outside jobs to make ends meet. She said frustration led her to participate in this week’s sickout.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton retweeted pictures from inside Detroit schools Thursday, saying, “No one would tolerate these conditions in a wealthy suburb.”