Michigan AG files lawsuit against Detroit school board

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed a lawsuit to remove seven Detroit school board members who, he says, were elected in violation of the state law.

According to a release from the Michigan Attorney General's Office, the seven members were elected in separate districts, but the AG says the current law requires the school board to have an at-large election, meaning the members had to have been elected by the city as a whole.

The suit is the result of the state's emergency manager law being put on the November ballot. Because of that decision, the state reverts back to an "old" EM law that is less strict—giving emergency managers less power and leaving more decision-making to board members.

The Associated Press reports that the current emergency manager law, which Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law last year, is currently suspended, and administration officials have said an older law granting managers fewer powers replaces it.

The state has also filed an injunction to halt future action from the board.

According to the complaint filed by Schuette today:

In the Detroit Public School District, this has required extraordinary action by the State including the appointment of an emergency financial manager to help assure the orderly and efficient provision of quality educational services. That State initiative is in jeopardy because the locally elected School Board is illegally constituted and operating in contravention of law, as outlined below. The Attorney General brings this action to assure a good education is provided for Detroit's student population, both in the upcoming school year soon to start and in ensuing years.

The seven board members that the attorney general has sued to force from their seats were elected last November. 

"This timing is very suspect," said LaMar Lemmons, DPS Board President.

The lawsuit was filed the same week that Emergency Manager Roy Roberts lost his powers because the courts are allowing the people to vote on Public Act 4, which restored some power back to the school board.

"It's ironic that we've been meeting with no power, and the moment we gain power they decide that we should not meet," said Lemmons.

The attorney general has had the legal right to file the lawsuit since 2008.  That is when a new state ruling no longer recognized DPS as a first class school district because they lost so many students.

"It's their fault, all these problems have been created by the state of Michigan," said Malik Shabazz, a well-known Detroit activist.

The district has been under some form of state control with an emergency manager for the past eleven years.  Shabazz called the lawsuit to strip the board members of their power an act of war on the city and the people of Detroit.

"We're going to fight.  We are going to organize and we're going to fight and you are going to see some major, mad, civil disobedience if you force us to that point, you are going to see that we are going to shut this city down," Shabazz.

A spokesperson from the attorney general's office said they did not have any comment tonight on the developments at the school board meeting or any comments made at the meeting.

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