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
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
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.