Jun 16, 2008
Former Detroit Public School (DPS) Board president Jimmy Womack thought he was slick, getting rid of two activist teachers last year on trumped-up charges. An administrative law judge thought otherwise.
Steve Conn and Heather Miller were placed on administrative leave last summer after the two joined students who were demonstrating against DPS-proposed school closings and cutbacks. At the demonstration on May 1, 2007, students were pepper-sprayed and arrested by DPS police officers. The police then arrested Conn, then went looking for Miller, whom they also arrested.
Later Conn and Miller were charged with “endangering” the students who took part in the protest.
To put it lightly, the judge, Doyle O’Connor, found the charges to be a bunch of BS, declaring that it was in fact the DPS who had endangered not only the students but Miller and Conn’s ten-year old daughter. DPS police had ripped Miller away from her daughter, leaving the girl in the middle of a busy street.
Judge O’Connor ruled that the School Board had acted illegally, by suspending and seeking to fire Conn and Miller for protected activity – taking part in a demonstration. He also found that Womack had a personal vendetta against Conn and Miller, who have helped organize numerous fights against the School Board in the past.
During these hearings, DPS police officers denied over and over that they had ever pepper sprayed the students – despite photos, video and audio recordings showing that they clearly had. Judge O’Connor called their testimony “willfully untruthful.” And, he found that Womack had directly stated his intention to “get” Conn and Miller, and to “starve them out” by putting them on unpaid administrative leave and dragging the process through the courts for months.
O’Connor ordered the DPS to reinstate the two teachers immediately, with full back pay.
What was the response of the School Board? A subcommittee of the Board recommended – to fire the two teachers anyway. A final decision of the Board was yet to be announced.
Clearly, the group of thugs that controls the School Board can stand no opposition to its plans – plans to dismantle the school district piece by piece, and to hand it to their cronies to squeeze every last dime out of it!
This time they got caught out.