Judge invokes Flint crisis in ruling on Detroit schools plan

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has invoked Flint's lead-tainted water crisis in ruling to block the Detroit public school district's attempt to cut costs by reducing the number of boiler operators at schools.

Wayne County Circuit Judge David Allen said in his ruling released Monday that leaving boilers unattended endangers children, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"The court takes notice of the current government induced tainted water crisis debacle in Flint," Allen wrote. "For those of us that want to listen, it has taught us that when we place financial expediency over basic and critical public health needs, we reap what we sow: Lead poisoning in thousands of children.

"Let us not have the next headline to go national be: 'Detroit Schoolchildren Injured and Killed in Unattended Boiler Explosion.'"

Flint switched from Detroit's municipal water system while under emergency state financial management and began drawing water from the Flint River in 2014 to save money, but the water was not properly treated. Residents have been urged to use bottled water and to put filters on faucets.

Allen's ruling came the same day a different judge denied a second attempt by the school district to obtain a temporary restraining order against teacher sick-outs that have closed dozens of buildings this month and kept thousands of students home.

In the case about boilers, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 sought to stop the Detroit school district from cutting licensed boiler engineers at 75 schools from one at each school. A plan to save $3 million a year called for 15 engineers, each responsible for five schools.

The district argued that technological advances in boiler monitoring made the plan safe. Darnell Earley, the district's emergency manager, previously oversaw Flint's finances and was in charge when the city switched to Flint River water.

To make the boiler staffing cuts, Detroit schools needed city approval for an exemption from a City of Detroit ordinance requiring an engineer be present when boilers are in operation. The district argued that the ordinance, which was last amended in 1972, was outdated.

Published: Wed, Jan 27, 2016