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Lawyer to sue DPS, Gov on behalf of Detroit kids

Posted at 6:41 PM, Apr 06, 2016

Kids are planning to sue the Governor Rick Snyder today. One lawyer says he is stepping up to represent all 46,000 kids in Detroit Public Schools in a class action lawsuit.

“It brings tears to my eyes when I sit down and read my own complaint that I drafted,” said Tom Bleakley.

Bleakley is a retired trial lawyer from Detroit, now living in Florida. He has been enjoying his retirement, spending time golfing and writing a novel.

Now he says he is preparing to go back to the courtroom - to fight for Detroit kids.

“Children can’t learn when kids have to wear coats in the classroom and dead rats are in the hallways,” said Bleakley.

He says that school conditions such as those 7 Action News exposed and academic results are unacceptable.

“Ninety-seven percent of DPS graduates are not college-ready or career-ready, based on minimal state guidelines. So we’re aiming to fix that with this lawsuit.”

You can read a draft copy of the suit below. It accuses the governor, politicians, emergency managers, and others of violating the civil rights of kids who have a right under the Michigan Constitution to an “adequate" education.

“They’re getting the short end of the stick and we intend to compensate them for that,” said Bleakley.

He says there is a theory that some state leaders want poor academic performance because it would fuel arguments for privatizing Detroit Public Schools. He hopes the lawsuit will help investigate that.

He points to legislation proposed by House Republicans allowing uncertified teachers in schools only in Detroit, as evidence of the alleged behind the scenes plan.

“It is led by the charter school people, who don’t want trained teachers because they don’t have to pay them as much money,” said Bleakley.

The state lawmaker behind the legislation, Rep. Daniela Garcia (R-Holland), defended her proposal in the past saying it would help ease the teacher shortage.

The suit says the governor violated the rights of citizens by taking away local control, forcing the district under the absolute power of emergency manager after emergency manager. Bleakley says he sees it as a way to take away the voting rights of poor minority communities. 

He says people have talked about the impact in Flint. Now it's time to talk about Detroit.

“I would characterize what has happened with DPS as the Flint water crisis on steroids,” said Bleakley.

7 Action News reached out to the governor’s office and the school district for comment. Both released statements saying they don’t comment on pending litigation. 

Read the lawsuit below:

Lawsuit against governor