Stephanie Francis Ward
September 14, 2016

Attorneys with Public Counsel filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, September 13, 2016 on behalf of Detroit students that, they claim, are being denied their constitutional right to literacy, guaranteed to them under the 14th amendment. The lawsuit marks the first time such a claim has been made in federal court. The suit argues “that Detroit students have been excluded from the state’s educational system.” The plaintiffs involved are all students from some of the the lowest performing Detroit schools, most of them are from low-income families.

While many legal experts are skeptical of the lawsuit’s claim, some believe the law suit may make history. Harvard constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, stated “The legal theory underlying the suit is both creative and rock-solid… If you think of Brown v Board as one shoe that dropped, this is the other shoe,” he said, “because though it eliminated, technically, inferior schools for blacks, and eliminated de jure segregation, it didn’t achieve one of its basic goals. And that is a decent educational opportunity for all kids, regardless of race, regardless of class, regardless of geography. That’s become a more elusive goal.”

One University of Michigan law professor also noted that the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 mandates that “all school children have a right to an education.”

“A right of access to literacy is well-grounded upon existing Supreme Court precedent construing the 14th Amendment. We are confident that this case will have broad impact upon public education for children in Detroit and throughout our nation,” said an attorney involved with the litigation.

Detroit students are being deprived of their constitutional right to literacy, says federal lawsuit
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Organizations mentioned/involved: Public Counsel
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