A U.S. District Court judge last week dismissed a class-action suit filed by seven Detroit public school students who claim the state of Michigan denied them the “basic right” of education.
The judge ruled that there is no justification for claiming education as a legal right. The students claimed their schools—some of the lowest-ranked in the state—are “schools in name only, characterized by slum-like conditions and lacking the most basic educational opportunities.”
The students, who range in age from 9 to 18 and are African-American or Hispanic, reported vermin infestations, contaminated drinking water, outdated textbooks, and ceiling tiles falling during class time. They said the state would not tolerate such conditions at schools found in predominantly white communities and that the schools are irreparably damaging children by depriving them of their constitutional right of access to literacy.
But state education officials called the case an attack on democracy. Michigan Assistant Attorney General Timothy J. Haynes wrote a motion to dismiss the suit, saying the students were asking the court to dictate educational policy across the entire United States: “Such a path would effectively supersede democratic control by voters and the judgment of parents, allowing state and federal courts to peer over the shoulders of teachers and administrators and substitute court judgment for the professional judgment of educators.”
The students plan to appeal. —Anna Johansen