03/30/2012 4:16 pm Updated: 03/31/2012 9:53 am :: About 50 students were suspended Thursday from the all-boys Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit, Mich. for walking out of classes in protest, demanding "an education."
Among their complaints: a lack of consistent teachers, the reassignment of the school principal, educators who abuse sick time and a shortage of textbooks.
"We've been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated," senior Tevin Hill told the Detroit Free Press. "They didn't listen to us when we complained to the administration. They didn't listen to the parents when they complained to the administration, so I guess this is the only way to get things solved."
One math teacher, parent Sharise Smith tells WJBK-TV, has been absent for more than 68 days.
The students marched outside the school and chanted, "We want... education! When do we want it? Now!"
Students and parents became increasingly alarmed when Frederick Douglass was no longer listed as an application school in the district -- current students had to apply to attend. Smith told the Free Press that her son was given an A in geometry without taking a final exam.
"It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn't because he earned an A," she said.
The Frederick Douglass boys are just some of many students in a city that proved to be the worst-performing urban school area among 21 surveyed across the country. Despite its national rank, Detroit's overall performance increased on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2009 branded Detroit "ground zero" for education reform, but changed his tone to a more optimistic one last year. Still, the district is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and faces dwindling enrollment -- the first day of academic year 2011-2012 saw a 55 percent attendance rate.
Detroit Public Schools spokesperson Steve Wasko noted that Frederick Douglass teachers who abuse sick time "will be reprimanded," and the district aims to keep the school open while adding new courses like debate and engineering.
The 17-year-old Hill told The Detroit News that so many teachers have been simultaneously absent from school that dozens of students had been forced to gather in the gym or other common school areas. Students also went for long periods without homework, and Hill said he struggled on a recent placement exam at Bowling Green State University, where he's been accepted to attend next year.
"I literally couldn't answer a question on there," Hill said. "Right now, I'm not going to be as successful as I should be because I haven't been properly taught."