Fed Judge Rules Detroit Students Have No Right to Literacy

Inadequate facilities with damaged ceilings such as this in Detroit's schools inspired a recent federal lawuit

Inadequate facilities with damaged ceilings such as this in Detroit’s schools inspired a recent federal lawsuit.

By Free Radical

In a controversial ruling issued last Friday, a Federal judge in Michigan ruled that “access to literacy” was not a fundamental right for students in Detroit’s predominantly Black public school system.

The suit began in September 2016 by families who argued that the state failed to provide an adequate education due to lack of appropriate funding, materials, and educators. Michigan officials and current governor Rick Snyder were named in the suit as the state has consistently taken over Detroit’s failing schools in a number of unsuccessful schemes since 2009.

In levying his decision, Judge Stephen J. Murphy III conceded that the Detroit schools, with its old books and dilapidated buildings were “nothing short of devastating.” However, he did not attribute their condition to racial discrimination as the lawsuit alleged. Moreover, he argued that education was not a fundamental right that students had a right to.

Mark Rosenbaum, who represented the students, told reporters that he planned to appeal the decision but also offered the salvo that “In 2018, you shouldn’t have to file lawsuits so that kids get access to teachers and books.”

Unfortunately, it is likely to be tough sledding ahead for Rosenbaum and the students he represents. The judicial and political systems of the US have often used a narrow scope to determine what rights citizens enjoy. The idea of quality education, housing, or jobs has often been beyond the purview of the country’s leading institutions.

Often times, the country’s failure to ensure what many deem as basic human rights has not been devoid of the nation’s racialized, gendered, and classed history. For if these provisions were guaranteed, the US would be vulnerable to challenges that would upset its tradition of maintaining parallel societies between privileged White men and the much larger body politic consisting of people of color, women, and the poor.

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