The "sickout" by Prince George's County teachers continued yesterday in apparent violation of a court order, prompting school officials to plan to seek contempt citations against more than 300 teachers.
School officials said they will ask County Circuit Judge William McCullough today to issue the contempt citations. They said they did not go before the judge yesterday because the court was closed in observance of Lincoln's birthday.
"The [school] board plans to name not only the teachers but also the county Education Association [the teachers' union] as being in contempt of the court's order to end the disruptive activities in public schools," said school spokesman Brian Porter.
Judge McCullough issued the court order in the form of an injunction Wednesday night after teachers protesting the school board's contract proposal had staged sickouts Tuesday and Wednesday.
Despite the injunction, more than 300 teachers called in sick yesterday at eight schools, closing Lord Baltimore Junior High School in Allentown and forcing large numbers of substitutes to take charge in seven schools. On Tuesday and Wednesday, sickouts by teachers closed two schools and disrupted classes in at least nine other schools.
If Judge McCullough decides to issue the citations, sheriff's deputies would visit the schools or teachers' homes with citations in hand. The teachers would have to appear in court to show why they should not be held in contempt. Those who are held in contempt -- particularly those who don't have a note from a doctor indicating they were sick -- could be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to a year.
A number of teachers who called in sick yesterday at Oxon Hill High School said they were "fully aware" the court had issued an injunction prohibiting another sickout. "I knew about it but I didn't care," said one teacher. "We had all agreed to stay out before he issued the injunction. I don't know what the court injunction is going to do to me."
Another teacher said he decided to call in sick despite the injunction because "I'm getting completely desperate. My salary is increasing far below the inflation rate."
The teachers' work action followed their decision Monday to reject the school board's offer of a 5 percent salary increase next August, a 3.3 percent increase in February 1982 and an additional 1.1 percent the following April, a cumulative raise of 9.1 percent. Teachers say the proposed 9.1 percent figure actually amounts to a 6.8 percent increase over the course of a year, since the 9.1 percent increase would not be given at the beginning of the year.
Teachers have been requesting 20 percent raises. They say they have lost 40 percent of their buying power over the last four years.