East Chicago schools closed

1992-03-10T00:00:00Z East Chicago schools closedRADA INDJICH nwitimes.com
March 10, 1992 12:00 am  • 

EAST CHICAGO - After a Monday marked by violence and confusion,

Superintendent Norman Comer closed city schools indefinitely.

At a Monday evening School Board meeting, board lawyer Richard Lesniak

emphasized that the day-old teachers strike is illegal.

"We are preparing documentation to go to court over this matter, to order

teachers back to work," Lesniak told about 150 angry parents. "We are going to

court to terminate this strike."

A 1973 state law made it illegal for teachers to strike, but school

officials rarely push to have the law enforced because of the potential effect

on negotiations.

Nearly 95 percent of the city's 425 teachers honored the systemwide strike.

Many of the system's 7,000 students stayed home. Others arrived but left after

an hour or two.

Pickets were in place by 7 a.m. at the city's 11 schools after a drawn-out

night of negotiations collapsed Sunday.

Though there were no reports of violence involving pickets or substitute

teachers, police were called to Central High School after fights broke out

sporadically and substitute teachers were unable to restore order.

Union President Vicky Candelaria urged parents to keep their children home

after the Sunday talks collapsed; Comer assured residents school would open

Monday and children who did not attend would be counted absent.

But by mid-morning, Comer issued a statement closing schools until further


"Although the schools were open on Monday, and more than half the students

were in attendance under the supervision of teachers, substitutes and other

ancillary personnel, the decision has now been made to request parents not to

send youngsters to school tomorrow (Tuesday) or until further notice," Comer


Candelaria said, "It's very obvious as we went around there was no learning

and no teaching going on. At the high school, they were watching the movie

'Home Alone.'"

By mid-afternoon, hundreds of striking teachers gathered at the United

Steelworkers Local 1010 union hall in Indiana Harbor, where they were apprised

of the strike's consequences.

By 7 p.m., angry and vocal parents showed up at a School Board meeting to

air their gripes, but the meeting was cut short by the board after about 45

minutes of public comment.

About a dozen parents spoke, most in support of the striking teachers. They

urged the board to settle the strike and get their children back into school.

"It bothered me to see so little consideration given to teachers," said

Emmanuel John, a father with four children in the city's school system. "Their

job's hard enough. I'm urging you to reconsider your position to get teachers

back so our children can make it in this life and be just like yourselves."

Other parents voiced similar views until the board abruptly adjourned and

left while at least three police officers watched the crowd.

Teachers are complaining the administration is using them to subsidize the

salaries of administrators who are unnecessary and costly, claiming the

administration's priorities are skewed.

East Chicago teachers last struck in 1979. The last strike in Lake County

involved Gary teachers, in 1984.

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