Judge tosses Detroit schools case, says no right to literacy

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DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit focused on the poor reading skills of students at several Detroit schools, concluding in part that there's no constitutional right to literacy— and drawing vows of an appeal.

Judge Stephen Murphy III agreed in his 40-page ruling that "when a child who could be taught to read goes untaught, the child suffers a lasting injury — and so does society." But he also asserted that the U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee a fundamental right to literacy.

The lawsuit was filed in 2016, arguing the schools were in "slum-like conditions" and "functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy." The lawsuit accused Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, the state school board and others of violating the civil rights of low-income students.

The district at the time had been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

The plaintiffs said Monday they planned to appeal Murphy's ruling, which was posted late Friday in U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan.

"Friday's decision is as deeply disappointing as having to file a lawsuit in the first place to ensure that the state of Michigan denies no child the opportunity to thrive in schools worthy of their desire to learn," attorney Mark Rosenbaum of Los Angeles-based Public Counsel said in a statement.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, he added that he was in a Detroit school recently and "looked at books that were dated 1998" and "saw classrooms with mice running around."

"That's the sort of system when you don't care about children, when you treat children as disposable, when you believe they can't and shouldn't learn," Rosenbaum said.

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the governor is "committed to doing what he can to ensure students in Detroit get a proper education."

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