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Detroit teachers call in sick to protest against 'hazardous' schools

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Nearly all schools across the American city of Detroit were closed yesterday, after teachers went off sick en masse to protest against underfunding and crumbling infrastructure.

The industrial action was scheduled to draw attention to the poor state of school premises and large class sizes on the day President Barack Obama was due to visit the city for the North American International Auto Show.

Teachers have complained about crumbling buildings, mould in classrooms, leaky ceilings and dead rats.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers said it planned to hand out leaflets at the auto show, highlighting the appalling state of schools.

A statement on its website said: “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."

Detroit schools are burdened with £362 million of debt and a large slice of money allocated per pupil goes towards servicing this.

Detroit officials reported that 86 of its 97 schools would be forced to close due to a high volume of teacher absences.

On January 11, 64 of the district's schools had to shut for the same reason. More industrial action in the form of mass sick leaves – known as “sick-outs” in the US – is expected over the coming months, according to media reports.

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