Children in Detroit do not have the “fundamental right” to literacy, a federal judge ruled Friday (June 29) in a lawsuit accusing the city’s public schools of racial discriminating, and failing to provide students with a “minimally adequate education.” U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III dismissed the legal complaint, which was filed in 2016 by a Los Angeles-based Public Counsel law firm on behalf of “minor children who attend public schools in Detroit.”
The suit alleges that the state violated the children’s right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and names state officials “responsible” for the poor educational conditions, including Gov. Rick Snyder.
“The Court has already concluded that the Due Process Clause does not require a state to provide access to minimally adequate education. In other words, access to literacy is not a fundamental right—at least not in the positive-right sense,” Murphy wrote in the 40-page judgment. “Accordingly, the State’s alleged failure to provide literacy access to Plaintiffs fails to state an equal-protection claim on the basis of burdening a fundamental right.”
According to the court documents, children who attend public schools in Detroit “have alleged that the conditions of their schools are so poor, and so inadequate, that they have not received even a minimally adequate education.”
“Specifically, they alleged they have been denied access to literacy on account of their races, in violation of their rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the documents state.
The state moved to have the suit dismissed, and denied that the children have been “treated differently on account of their race.” Furthermore, state officials argued that they are the “wrong parties” to target” (the plaintiff’s counter-argued that Michigan is responsible for “complying with all constitutional mandates regarding public education,” and are particularly responsible for Detroit schools which have been “controlled” by the state since 1999).
Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the Los Angeles-based Public Counsel law firm called the ruling, “as deeply disappointing” as having to file a lawsuit in the first place to ensure that the state of Michigan denies no child the opportunity to thrive in schools worthy of their desire to learn.”
They organization plans to appeal the court decision.