Cass Tech students walk out to support teachers

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
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Detroit Public School teachers, students and other supporters rallied Monday in support of instructors who have staged repeated sickouts to protest poor building conditions and other problems in the state’s largest school district.

The demonstrations, which included a noontime walkout by students at Cass Technical High School, came as a judge conducted a hearing on the district’s request to bar further sickouts.

At Cass Tech, dozens of students marched outside the school and carried signs supporting the teachers.

“This is about Detroit public schools,” said Jonea Maxey, 17, a senior at Cass Tech. “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.”

Students chanted “Save DPS,” “We want the best” and “Fix DPS!” Senior Natalya Henderson spoke into a bullhorn, saying that the walkout had no affiliation with the activist group By Any Means Necessary or ousted teachers union president Steve Conn, who has urged teachers to join the sickouts.

“This is about the students,” Henderson said. “We matter. We are the future.”

Earlier outside Cadillac Place, trucks, buses and cars traveling on West Grand Boulevard honked as they passed teachers and supporters who were rallying Monday morning outside the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Nearly 200 people gathered while a judge was conducting a hearing on the 14th floor on a request from DPS for a preliminary injunction against the Detroit Federation of Teachers and others to stop the sickouts, which have closed dozens of schools over the past two months.

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan, said the union supports the teachers, who are upset over pay and benefit cuts, large class sizes and poor conditions in many DPS buildings.

“We stand with those teachers so they get the fair shake they deserve,” Hecker said. “The issue is why what has happened to lead teachers to take this position. And we know why: it’s the underfunding of education, the why is class sizes through the roof, massive pay cuts, horrible conditions in too many schools.”

“These teachers are standing up for their students and we should be proud of what they have done,” Hecker added.

Several parents and some students joined the protest, including Denise Bundy, a volunteer parent for nine years.

“We are not going to take anything else,” said Bundy. “The kids haven’t had enough supplies, they have to share their books. I know of a teacher who had mice coming in (the classroom). I have seen it with my own eyes. They need to support all the teachers. They need help.”

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