School & District Management

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Sued Over Literacy Access in Detroit

By Denisa R. Superville — September 13, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of seven Detroit schoolchildren alleges that state officials have failed to provide the students access to literacy.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, names Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, members of the Michigan Board of Education, the state schools superintendent, the director of the state department of technology, management and budget, and the state school reform/redesign officer as defendants.

The lawsuit was filed by lawyers with Public Counsel, a pro-bono firm. The plaintiffs want the court to determine whether the state violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by failing to provide the Detroit students with the same access to literacy as other students in the state’s public schools and whether the current school system violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

A spokesman for Gov. Snyder said that the office does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit argues that the education the Detroit students are receiving is both “separate and unequal.”

The city’s schools, the lawyers wrote in their brief, are in such state of disrepair and crisis that they are “irreparably damaging children’s futures and depriving them of their constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental right of access to literacy.”

The students named as plaintiffs attend four of the worst-performing schools in the city, according to the Detroit News. One student attended the now-shuttered charter school, Experiencia Preparatory Academy. More than 97 percent of students in those schools are students of color and the majority of them are poor, according to the lawsuit.

According to the document:

“On a percentile scale of zero to 100, Michigan’s statewide accountability system rates Plaintiffs’ schools that are currently open one, two, four, and six. The non-profit organization Excellent Schools Detroit has likewise assigned grades of Fs and Ds to Plaintiffs’ schools.”

The lawsuit cites a host of deficiencies at the schools. Among them: either out-of-date textbooks or none at all; absence of basic resources such as pens, pencils, paper and a reliance on donations and teachers to provide them; overcrowded classrooms; unsanitary conditions; vermin-infested classrooms; insufficient and unqualified staff; and lack of instruction for English-learners.

It should not be shocking that students have trouble reading given the conditions in their schools, according to the lawsuit.

“The alarming outcomes in Plaintiffs’ schools are a predictable consequence of the State’s consignment of Plaintiffs to chaotic, under-resourced, and unsafe schools that lack the necessary learning and teaching conditions for effective delivery of literacy instruction,” according to the filing.

The lawsuit alleges that the state was aware of the problems, but did not take the necessary steps to address them.

The lawsuit is seeking class action status on behalf of current and future students the plaintiffs’ schools, attorneys’ fees, and corrective measures. In the case of Experiencia Preparatory Academy, which is now closed, it sought to represent past students.

Among the corrective measures sought: remedial classes to bring students up to grade level; a screening system for literacy problems, along with “timely and appropriate” interventions; and the implementation of evidence-based literacy instruction and intervention programs.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Letter to the Editor School Mask Mandates: Pandemic, ‘Panicdemic,’ or Personal?
"A pandemic is based on facts. A 'panicdemic' is based on fears. Today, we have both," writes a professor.
1 min read
School & District Management How 'Vaccine Discrimination' Laws Make It Harder for Schools to Limit COVID Spread
In Montana and Ohio, the unvaccinated are a protected class, making it tough to track and contain outbreaks, school leaders say.
4 min read
Principal and District Superintendent Bonnie Lower takes the temperature of a student at Willow Creek School as the school reopened, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Willow Creek, Mont.
Bonnie Lower, a principal and district superintendent in Willow Creek, Mont., checks the temperature of a student as Willow Creek School reopened for in-person instruction in the spring.
Ryan Berry/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP
School & District Management Opinion 'Futures Thinking' Can Help Schools Plan for the Next Pandemic
Rethinking the use of time and place for teachers and students, taking risks, and having a sound family-engagement plan also would help.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools
Public-health officials' lack of concern for the risks of closing schools may shed light on Americans' reticence to embrace their directives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty