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Verdicts & Settlements

Michigan Settles Right-to-Education Lawsuit Filed by Detroit Students

— May 14, 2020

The settlement will provide close to $100 million in funds for Detroit literacy programs.

Michigan has settled a lawsuit filed by Detroit students who accused the state of permitting such abysmal conditions in the city’s schools that children effectively lost their right to education.

CNN reports that Michigan’s decision to settle the years-old lawsuit follows a federal appeals court ruling which recognizes and validates the “fundamental right to a basic minimum education.”

According to CNN, the suit was filed by seven students from five different public and charter schools. In their lawsuit, the students described “slum-like conditions”—decrepit buildings, rodent-infested classrooms, and inadequate staffing.

One student—quoted by LegalReader in an October article—told NBC he voluntarily attended Osburn High School in east Detroit.

“I didn’t think the curriculum would be that,” Jamarria Hall said, adding that he’d wanted to attend Osburn because his dad coached the school’s basketball team.

“I remember walking into the hallway and seeing garbage cans catching drips from the ceiling,” Hall said. “Seeing the lack of books and how the classrooms had bars and things on the windows and could barely open, and the aroma from I don’t know what. It’s just kind toxic sickness in the air.”

Current Michigan Gov. and former Ford School faculty Gretchen Whitmer delivering a speech in 2015. Image via Flickr/user:FordSchool. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The lawsuit also included another disturbing account: an eighth-grader who spent a month teaching middle school mathematics after the course’s regular teacher quit.

To address the students’ complaints, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said she will propose legislation that will provide at least $94.4 million in funding for literacy-related programs and initiatives in the Detroit Public School Community District.

The state will also pay $280,000 to the seven students who filed the suit, to be shared among them and used to “access a high-quality literacy program or otherwise further their education.”

The students’ money, says CNN, will be held in a trust operated by the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

In announcing the settlement, Whitmer hopes education in Detroit will only continue to improve.

“This settlement marks a first step toward ensuring children in Detroit and all across Michigan—regardless of where they live—have the right to a quality education,” Whitmer said. “I have always said that every student, no matter where they come from, has a birthright to a quality public education.

“Students in Detroit have faced obstacles to their education that inhibited their ability to read—obstacles they never should have faced,” she said.

In a separate statement, plaintiff Jamarria Hall all said he is overjoyed at the case’s outcome.

“Today, I’m overwhelmed with joy for the opportunities this settlement opens up for students in Detroit,” he said. “Starting this journey four years ago, parents and students knew we wanted a better education, and now to really be heard for the first time means everything.”


Detroit Public School Students: Education in the City Is So Bad That It’s Unconstitutional

Federal Court Says Detroit Students Have “Right to Literacy”

Michigan settles Detroit schools lawsuit, acknowledges a right to literacy

Michigan settles right to education lawsuit after court rules it a constitutional right

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