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Detroit Students Have a Constitutional Right to Literacy, Court Rules

For the first time in decades, a federal court has declared that American public school students have a constitutional right to an adequate education.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled last week that the state of Michigan had been so negligent toward the educational needs of Detroit students that children had been “deprived of access to literacy” — the foundational skill that allows Americans to function as citizens — in violation of the 14th Amendment.

The ruling came in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of Detroit public school students that cited a litany of severe deficiencies: Rodent-infested schools. Unqualified and absentee teachers. Physics classes given only biology textbooks. “Advanced” high school reading groups working at the fourth-grade level.

When “a group of children is relegated to a school system that does not provide even a plausible chance to attain literacy, we hold that the Constitution provides them with a remedy,” Judge Eric L. Clay wrote for a 2-1 majority.

The overwhelming majority of students in the Detroit public schools are black or Hispanic and come from low-income families. Judge Clay noted that through the nation’s history, white people have repeatedly withheld education to deny political power to African-Americans and others, most notably under slavery and segregation.

Read entire article at The New York Times