A class action lawsuit aims halt the continued reopening of 26 Detroit public schools for in-person summer school occurring in apparent violation of an executive school shut-down order and federal guidelines.
The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti face a proposed class action lawsuit and petition for writ of mandamus to halt the continued reopening of 26 public schools for in-person summer school that began on July 13 in apparent violation of an executive school shut-down order and federal guidelines.
According to the complaint, Executive Order 2020-142 lays out a set of minimum requirements for Michigan school districts to resume in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year yet provides no guidance with regard to summer school. Per the suit, the executive order, issued by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on June 30, also mandated schools to remain closed until a district’s school board approves a preparedness plan in line with the state’s minimum reopening requirements.
The plaintiffs—the head of the Executive Board of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, parents, teachers and a bus driver who filed the suit alongside Equal Opportunity Now/By Any Means Necessary Caucus; the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights; and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary—say DPSCD resumed in-person instruction on July 13 “with little forewarning and without preparation,” as well as a preparedness plan released the day prior that had not yet been approved by the board of education. The defendants’ preparedness plan “does not conform to guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” the lawsuit claims, alleging the DPSCD and its superintendent have “failed to implement measures within it.”
As the plaintiffs tell it, the DPSCD and Superintendent Vitti have handled summer school reopening in a manner the nation’s top expert has assured would be problematic for students and faculty:
“DPSCD is doing exactly what Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned would result in disastrous consequences. It has approached the reopening of Detroit public schools in a completely ‘cavalier’ manner, acting on the basis of political exigencies and not science and showing no concern for the lives of the district’s students, teachers and school staff."
While schools districts in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, among other cities, have refused to give in to federal pressure to resume in-person learning, Michigan and Detroit’s political leaders are forging ahead with the DPSCD’s reopening while dismissing the recommendations of public health officials, the lawsuit claims.
“The district’s decision will refuel the resurgence and spread of the Coronavirus in Detroit and turn Michigan into another California, where schools were closed but the state was reopened too quickly and it is now experiencing a major outbreak of the virus,” the complaint says. “As things stand now, DPSCD is consciously creating a cataclysmic man-made health disaster which DPSCD and Superintendent are allowing to take place.”
The plaintiffs contest that absent court intervention, thousands of young people and their families will contract COVID-19 “and turn Detroit into the epicenter of the virus in Michigan.”
“Without relief from this Court, DPSCD plans to conduct the 2020-21 school year with the same disregard for the health of DPSCD children, teachers, staff, and their families, and their conduct is already facilitating an outbreak of COVID-19 which will delay further their ability to attend in-person school safely,” the suit contends.
Initially filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, the proposed class action has been removed to federal court in Michigan’s Eastern District, Southern Division.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.