Beverly White, Sean Browning
Dozens of teachers in Compton stayed home in an apparent protest, and there are concerns that it could happen again. Beverly White reports from Compton for the NBC4 News at 11 on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.
After more than 50 teachers called out sick from a Southern California high school, district officials fear Tuesday's "sickout" will not be the last.
Some 55 teachers at Manuel Dominguez High School -- more than half of the school's teaching staff -- called in sick Tuesday, and the district said it has reason to believe it was a planned strike.
"Preliminary investigation has revealed that this is planned for several sites throughout the district on a rolling basis," Compton Unified Superintendent Darin Brawley told NBC4.
Officials said if the teachers were to stage more sick actions, it would violate their collective bargaining agrreement.
"The sub program that we have, which is electronic where teachers are able to call up for the next day, so that's going to be closely monitored throughout this entire process, tonight and throughout the week til the bargaining is over," Trustee Skyy Fisher said.
The teacher's union said the incident was not a planned stunt but the result of illness or personal matters.
"The Compton Education Association did not sanction a sickout nor a strike," said Compton Education Association President Donald Sullivan. "It hasn't been planned."
Students expected just another school day but instead were shuffled around as teachers called out sick.
"I just came in and sat in my original class and they just sent me over here to the gym and told us to go to a different classroom and that's where you're going to stay at for today," student Jose Villarruel said.
A parent of one of the school's students said he heard discussion of financial matters on the campus.
"I came to pick up my son, (I heard) something about a raise or not getting paid," Martin Morillo said. "I send my son to school and now I've got to come pick him up because there's no one in the class to teach him anything. It's ridiculous."
The Compton Education Association claims the district cancelled contract talks last week. The district says that the teachers failed to show up.
Compton School Board officials are demanding both the union and the district work out whatever issues they have so students are not affected.
"Immediately get to the table and settle this matter so that the teachers are happy and that this does not happen at any of our schools," Compton School Board President Micah Ali said. "Students pay the price."
Worried another "sickout" may be in the future, Brawley urged teachers to come to school.
"We believe that students should never be used as pawns in the negotiation process," Brawley said.
The next contract talks are scheduled for Thursday, according to the Compton Education Association.