Sunday, January 31, 2016

Detroit: Snitch or Be Fired

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley (already famous as the emergency manager who poisoned the Flint water supply) has a problem on his hands.

Well, actually, he has several problems, including crumbling, disgusting, unsafe schools. That's not the problem he's concerned about-- he's concerned about the teacher sick-outs. Michigan teachers are not legally permitted to strike-- but they can call in sick. And like any manager whose people are desperately going to great lengths to let him know there's a problem, Earley has sat down with them to talk and try to get to the root of the issue so that the school system can better meet the needs of the students and community. Ha! Just kidding. Earley has tried to cudgel the teachers back into line.

He's tried a court injunction against the union. Twice. The court has correctly noted that there's no evidence that the union is behind the sick-outs.

So last week, teachers reportedly became aware that there was a new policy document on the DPS website.

You can see the document here.

The first sections are old news. Employees may not strike. Supervisors may not encourage a strike.

Then we get to the snitching portion.

"Each and every employee" who becomes aware of any plan for a strike or work stoppage must report it, in writing and in full and in detail.

And the bottom line on all of this?

Failure to immediately comply with this order may be grounds for discipline up to and including termination.

So now, instead of spending money trying to fix decaying schools or get non-rancid food in front of students, Earley and DPS can spend money hauling teachers into tribunals to charge them with having prior knowledge of another teacher's intent to call in sick, with everybody's job on the line.

Michigan does have a whistleblower statute, which protects, among other things, an employee who "reports or is about to report (either verbally or in writing) a violation or a suspected violation of a law, regulation, or a rule" whether the law is state, federal, whatever. I'm not a lawyer (nor do I play one on tv), but it would be interesting to see if the teacher sickout qualifies as a last-ditch attempt to "report" the terrible conditions, many of which violate all sorts of rules, would qualify them as whistleblowers, and therefore protected from retaliation for the sick-outs.

But it's an even more bizarre stretch to try to implement a regulation aimed directly at anyone who knew that someone else was about to blow a whistle.

Earley's snitch-or-be-fired directive is just one more example of how this kind of management-by-czar model can turn into messy tyranny. I hope DPS teachers continue to defy Early, and I hope he looks as ridiculous as he clearly is when he tries to go after them. But what I really hope is that somebody in the state of Michigan wakes up and starts properly funding schools, communities, and the very citizens of the state. Though I should probably check to make sure that Pennsylvania doesn't have some sort of extradition treaty with Michigan before I post this-- I've just encouraged Detroit teachers to continue their sick out and you're just read me doing it, which means we could all be in trouble now. What country do we live in, again?


  1. What sick-out? I think they all just drank some Flint water.


  2. If this Earley person was ever a teacher, he obviously never learned effective forms of classroom management. Imagine trying to manage a class with these sort of tactics. Destined to failure. Looks like he never learned any kind of effective management techniques. And here he is, in sole charge in the towering position of "emergency manager." After presiding over the Flint water poisoning. This is way beyond the Peter Principle. He obviously met his level of incompetence many levels ago.

  3. Well this is the culture of compliance that you are seeing in the classroom with the new "recruits" This last year I am seeing a great divisiveness between the "old" and the "new" and this idea of tattling is not surprising. I have found in the years of being in the profession that at times it has always straddled being a vindictive field that leads many to tattle, point and deflect blame. I am really seeing it now in the new recruits. I have spent the last couple of years constantly looking over my shoulder, being defensive and documenting everything to insure my due process rights are protected. How sad, grim and pathetic. But this is what reform brings.