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DPS school board lawsuit: Snyder, state have "damaged" Detroit students

Apr 7, 2016

Former DPS emergency manager Darnell Earley is also named as a defendant in the suit.
Credit via Detroit Public Schools

Gov. Rick Snyder is a defendant in yet another lawsuit – this time, a federal lawsuit over the state of the Detroit Public Schools.

Members of Detroit’s elected school board and some parents filed the suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of about 58,000 students who have attended DPS schools since 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that financial, academic, and other conditions in the district have declined so much they violate students’ civil rights.

Those students “have experienced and will continue to experience permanent damage caused by Defendants’ willful and wanton callous indifference to their educational needs,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit lays blame squarely at the feet of the state of Michigan and the emergency manager law. DPS has been under some form of state oversight for 13 of the past 16 years.

In addition to Snyder and other state officials, it names three previous DPS emergency managers: Roy Roberts, Jack Martin, and Darnell Earley.

It also names a half-dozen school principals and a former schools contractor accused of taking bribes and kickbacks for school supplies that were never delivered.

School Board President Herman Davis says the board believes that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and that the lawsuit will bring even larger instances of mismanagement and corruption to light.

“We want to expose those folks that have been taking our kids’ money, and putting it in their pockets,” Davis said.

The elected board has had no real power since 2009, when a series of state-appointed emergency managers took over. Current emergency manager Steven Rhodes is the fifth.

DPS stands on the brink of bankruptcy without some kind of state aid.

State lawmakers passed a $48.7 million, short-term aid package at the end of March. The state House is expected to take up a longer-term DPS funding and restructuring package when they get back from spring break next week.