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Detroit teachers sue district over shoddy school conditions

DETROIT -- The Detroit teachers' union has filed a lawsuit against the district calling for it to repair "deplorable" conditions and remove the state-appointed emergency manager.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers' suit filed Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court seeks "an appropriately funded capital plan" to fix district-wide problems. It also calls for removing Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and returning the schools to local control.

Teachers claim the health of Detroit's 46,000 students is in danger.

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A district spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Rolling teacher sick-outs in the Detroit Public Schools have forced the closing of dozens of schools in recent weeks. A judge this week denied the district's second attempt at a temporary restraining order against the sick-outs over poor pay, crowded classrooms, unsafe buildings and other issues.

The union says it doesn't condone educators' actions involved in the sick-outs.

At Spain Elementary School, some kindergartners wore their coats in class when CBS News visited at the beginning of January. In several rooms, it was just too cold for 5-year-olds.

School counselor Lekia Wilson led CBS News on a tour, when we noticed a smell.

"You can smell the mold through the hallway," Wilson said.

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Spain Elementary School in Detroit has been without a gym for a year, due to a leaking roof that damaged the floor. CBS News

An entire section of the school is closed off, including the gym. It's been ripped up for a year.

"You're seeing the result of rain coming right into the school," Wilson explained.

Water leaking from the roof warped the wood floor, and now the smell of mildew fills the air.

The school's swimming pool has been waiting for repairs for five years. How do you teach gym without a gym?

"We do conditioning in the hallway," gym teacher Andre Harlan told CBS News.

The state took over financial management of Detroit Public Schools in 2009. The district is still $515 million in debt.

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"We kept talking, and talking, and talking and talking, and it was going on deaf ears," said Ivy Bailey, interim head of the teachers' union. "Nothing was changing. And teachers were just fed up."

"Educators have been snubbed, ignored, disrespected and punished when they informed the school system of safety and health problems and pleaded for them to be repaired," Bailey continued.

"Certainly if we don't get the money that we need to deal with the debt situation, that's only gonna make it worse," Earley, the emergency manager appointed by Michigan's governor to fix the problems, told CBS News.

One of the things Earley said the district cannot afford is a new roof for Spain Elementary School.

"It cries out for the immediate action, and my understanding is that there is a plan to do that," Earley said.

Without an infusion of cash from state legislators, the district says it will run out of money by April.

Shoniqua Kemp and two of her children are plaintiffs in the suit. She told CBS News' Adriana Diaz she blames Earley.

"It comes to money as a parent and a parent in the city of Detroit, I'm not a millionaire," she said. "Sometimes you have to shuffle things around to make things work. He went to school for this, he signed up for the job, he should at the very least do it."

Earley denied CBS News' request for an interview, but in a statement he said that he is working to reduce the school system's debt.