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Teachers get $300,000 in firing settlement

DETROIT, July 26, 2009 (AP): Two math teachers who were fired in 2007 after being accused of leading an unruly student protest over school closures have reached a $300,000 settlement with Detroit Public Schools.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy approved the settlement Wednesday following mediation over Steve Conn and Heather Miller's lawsuit against the school board and then-Superintendent Connie Calloway.

Conn and Miller, who are married, said they plan to donate a large percentage of the money to civil rights causes. The money covers back pay, attorney fees and other costs.

``This shows that the teachers and the people of Detroit can stand up to the destruction of our public schools,'' Conn said.

The controversy began in May 2007 when the couple took part in a protest against the closing of 33 schools during which students were pepper-sprayed for banging on windows at Northern High School.

The couple were placed on leave in June 2007 and barred from returning to work even after an administrative law judge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission recommended reinstatement in June 2008.

In November, Murphy ordered the school district to return Conn and Miller to their jobs immediately at Cass Tech High and Marquette Elementary, respectively.

He ruled that Conn and Miller are competent teachers who were punished by the school district for exercising their free-speech rights.

His ruling found that evidence showed that the district's treatment of the couple was ``highly impermissible, apparently dishonest and constitutionally'' illegal.

Wednesday's order states that the cash-strapped school board has the right to issue bonds to pay the judgment.

``We are determined to continue to fight against the dismantling of our school district, and for real reform and equality for the young people of Detroit,'' Miller said.

An after-hours telephone message seeking comment from Detroit Public Schools was left Sunday afternoon with the district's spokesman.

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com






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