DPS Board President Herman Davis challenged me to find a good attorney who would champion the children and volunteer his services to do this. I’ve found him in the person of 76-year-old liberal attorney Tom Bleakley.
Although Tom has come out of retirement to donate his services to this crusade, he naturally cannot be expected to donate his money as well — and this is where all of us who care about our children’s education must go into action. I coached him to two track championships in the Detroit Public School Athletic League 58 years ago. In one of those races, Tom fell down but still got up and won.
Now I have recruited him to come out of retirement to file a multibillion dollar tort lawsuit pro bono in federal court against the governor and against past and present DPS emergency managers on behalf of the children of Detroit. Many may recall that I put in 40-plus voluntary hours per week for 48 weeks in 2012-2013 as the democratically elected DPS Board’s appointed pro bono superintendent and went head-to-head with the then-emergency manager in the process (until he was enabled to fire me and disempower the elected board when the Republican legislature enacted the unconstitutional PA 436, the replacement law for the emergency management law that the voters of Michigan had rejected in November of 2012).
Over the years, the elected board has put in nearly as many hours for this cause as I have, and longtime DPS activist Helen Moore has put in even more. Attorney Bleakley has already put in well over a hundred hours as well to prepare this lawsuit.
Bleakley informs me that he will need to spend $25,000 in seed money alone for this undertaking. I have absolute faith in his ability to win this case. This is a situation every bit as dire as the one in Flint involving the poisoned water.
There, thousands of children’s bodies have been poisoned and their mental growth compromised. Here, thousands of children’s minds and educational opportunities have been and are being stunted via the state’s decade-and-a-half-long destruction of Detroit’s schools. Meanwhile, the Republican governmental majority in Lansing plans to dissolve DPS by this coming June after having imposed millions of dollars of indebtedness and plummeting student test scores upon this venerable 174-year-old school district that at the time of the state takeover in 1999 enjoyed a surplus of more than $100 million, with test scores that in 1999 were at the state midpoint and rising and now along with the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) scores have become the worst in America.
There are statute-of-limitation concerns which make it imperative that Tom Bleakley file this lawsuit within the month, which is his intent to do. It is therefore time for the DFT membership and any committed others to step up to the plate and contribute funds for this crucial endeavor. We have several DPS and EAA parents who have asked to have their children be plaintiffs, as will the president of our good, democratically elected school board.
Make no mistake: Attorney Tom Bleakley and this federal tort lawsuit that he is willing to donate his time to pursue are literally our children’s one last brave hope. Now it’s up to all of us to make sure he gets the necessary support to win for our schoolchildren.
John Telford is a longtime Detroit activist and educator