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Wednesday's sick-outs were the largest in a string of recent teacher protests calling attention to what they call deplorable conditions, overcrowded classrooms, and inadequate funding. (Photo: @detroitTeach/Twitter)

As Obama Visits City, Teacher Sick-Outs Shutter Nearly All Detroit Public Schools

"As the city celebrates this 'ultra-luxury' automobile event, Detroit’s public schools are in a state of crisis," says Detroit Federation of Teachers

Deirdre FultonLauren McCauley

On the same day that President Barack Obama visited the city to laud its alleged renaissance, teacher "sick-outs" over horrifying conditions closed 88 schools in Detroit on Wednesday.

According to a post on the Detroit Public Schools Facebook page, only eight schools in the district were open as a result of the largest in a string of recent teacher protests calling attention to what they call deplorable conditions, overcrowded classrooms, and inadequate funding.

The mass protest took place as Obama was visiting the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall, "turning what was supposed to be a day to celebrate into one shining a harsh spotlight on one of Michigan's struggling cities," CNN wrote

Teachers were planning to leaflet outside the auto show, with a call-to-action reading: "As the city celebrates this 'ultra-luxury' automobile event, Detroit’s public schools are in a state of crisis. Children are struggling in schools with hazardous environmental and safety issues. Educators have made significant sacrifices for the good of students, including taking pay cuts and reductions in health benefits."

In response to the teachers' action, The Detroit News reported, Detroit Public Schools "has filed an emergency motion seeking a restraining order and a preliminary injunction against DPS teachers who engaged in alleged work strikes, ordering them to stop the sickouts."

The suit, filed Wednesday in the Michigan Court of Claims, names 23 individual teachers, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, union officials, and organized sickout supporters.

In his State of the State address on Tuesday night, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged the crisis, but "his comments fell far short of what our students, all Detroiters, our elected officials and Michiganders needed to hear more from our state's leader," said David Hecker, president of American Federation of Teachers Michigan.

"Although he spoke of the catastrophe in Flint and the crisis in Detroit Public Schools, Gov. Snyder failed to recognize that both have been led by Emergency Managers who have made decisions that put our children and their futures at risk," Hecker continued. "No child, whether in Flint, Detroit or anywhere, should have to drink poisoned water or attend crumbling, under-resourced schools. The Governor asked us to hold him accountable—and our members are committed to it."

Following last week's sickout, Detroit educators and advocates shared images of the horrifying conditions in some of the city schools under the hashtag #SupportDPSteachers while the American Federation of Teachers released this video depicting life inside the Detroit Public School System:

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