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Detroit schools sue to get teachers back in classrooms

DETROIT -- The Detroit school district filed a lawsuit Wednesday to try to stop sick-outs by teachers as thousands of students again were forced to stay home.

The request for an injunction was filed in the state Court of Claims. It names a labor union, activists and roughly two dozen teachers.

Only a handful of Detroit's 100 schools were open Wednesday as a result of widespread teacher absences. The absences started a few weeks ago, but the number of schools affected has fluctuated.

Teachers are unhappy that the debt-ridden district has allowed conditions inside their classrooms to deteriorate.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the schools are in a "crisis." The district is run by a Snyder-appointed emergency manager.

Several dozen people marched in front of Detroit's convention center Wednesday afternoon, as marchers hoped to be on hand when President Barack Obama's motorcade arrived at the Cobo Center convention hall, where the president was touring the North American International Auto Show.

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Burton International Academy computer advanced teacher Denice McGee, bottom left, holds a sign as she and other protesters wait to cross the street Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Detroit.

AP

Union spokeswoman Ann Mitchell told The Associated Press that teachers "couldn't miss the opportunity" with the president in the city to say they "really need someone to help focus on the schools."

"We have got to stop this whole business by Snyder, which is an attempt just further the charters and further, really, the destruction of education in the city. We are determined to win that fight. The whole next generation relies on it," Cass Tech teacher and activist Steve Conn told CBS affiliate WWJ.

Conn says because of the protests, teachers are finally getting the attention that's needed to the pressing issues they've been dealing with for years, some of which he says include overcrowded class rooms and deplorable building conditions.

"We're having huge success, we are finally getting at least some attention to the problem we are going to have to continue on with the strike, if we are going to get real solutions by the governor - which really is to give us back our schools -- no more emergency manager now," said Conn.

Mitchell says the teacher's union did not encourage educators to participate in the sickout, but adds that "the movement has grown."

Mayor Mike Duggan called for teachers to stop staging sick-outs and return to their classrooms while state legislators work on solving the district's financial crisis.

Duggan and White House official Cecilia Munoz met with the media at a local eatery after the mayor gave Munoz a tour of some city neighborhoods.

Duggan met Tuesday with Detroit's delegation in the Legislature to work out their strategy on trying to improve conditions in the schools, which he says "are only getting worse. Lansing needs to act."

As for the ongoing sick-outs, the mayor says teachers' "frustrations are legitimate, but the solution is not to send the kids home."