Students walk out over lack of Detroit teachers

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Blustery winds could not stop parents, students and staff from staging a rally in front of Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy on Wednesday to protest the lack of teachers.

Students walked out of classes in the morning for an hour and held protest signs, including: “Keep open and rebuild our schools.”

They contend five teachers who left or were on medical leave were never replaced, and there are not enough substitutes.

Parent Aliya Moore was among those standing united with other parents, students and staff.

“This is the first step in getting what we want,” said Moore who has a second-grade daughter at the school. “If we don’t get it, what will we do? We’ll shut it down.”

That was met with a chorus of “Shut it down. Shut it down.”

Chrystal Wilson, spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said the district is aware teacher vacancies have been an ongoing challenge. As of last month, there are about 200 vacancies within the district, which employs 2,515 teachers.

“An aggressive recruitment effort is underway, we have staff members dedicated to hosting and attending recruitment events at local and outstate universities and colleges,” said Meriweather on Wednesday, encouraging teachers to apply at

At the rally, parent Melissa Redman, who has a son in the fourth grade, started a chant: “No teachers, no growth, no students, no growth, no teachers, no justice.”

She said the children are the future.

“Stop being silent,” she said. “Now is not the time. Next week, there could be another teacher gone and then the next week and another and the week after that, another.”

Student Gabriel Beal, 11, in the sixth grade, knows what it’s like first hand to be in a school without enough teachers.

“Teachers don’t get the proper preparation time, and sometimes, we don’t even have teachers in the room,” he said. “In those cases, if another classroom doesn’t have a teacher either, we will be sent to the gym to sit down.”

Asked what the students do in the gym, he responded, “we just sit there until somebody comes to get us.”

His mom, Stephanie Beal, was in favor of her son walking out of the school.

“This protest is long overdue,” she said. “Students have been without teachers in several classrooms and they already don’t have any gym or art. They don’t even hire proper substitutes and it should not be like that.”

Asked how the situation should be remedied, she said, “they should send us what we need. How can our kids be educated if they don’t have a properly staffed school?”

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