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 DPS lawsuitHallelujah!  We’ve done it!  When Detroit Public School Board President Herman Davis challenged this writer to find a good attorney who would volunteer his services to champion Detroit children in federal court who have been damaged by the callous indifference of the administrators the Governor has appointed to take over their school district, Davis didn’t believe such an altruistic attorney could possibly exist.  I’ve proved him wrong.  I found this noble knight errant in the person of my old DPS champion track athlete whom I coached in 1958; 76-year-old liberal attorney Tom Bleakley.

On April 7, 2016, Tom filed our historic lawsuit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, recent DPS emergency managers, and other allegedly culpable individuals.  Now the case has gone viral.  News outlets across the nation and throughout the world have seized upon it, making the failed DPS takeover and this resultant lawsuit America’s number-one education story.  However, even though Attorney Tom Bleakley has embarked upon this crusade, he naturally can’t be expected to finance it as well.  This endeavor is going to cost thousands of dollars for things like expert witness fees, depositions, document discovery and acquisition, travel fees, meals and lodging when necessary, paralegal expenses, and funds for the multiple defendants to be personally confronted and served subpoenas.

And this is where all of us who care about our children’s education must go into immediate action. Attorney Bleakley (pronounced BLAKElee) has set up an escrow account for these purposes. For more information regarding this and regarding the particulars of the DPS lawsuit, email Tom Bleakley at thbleakl@aol.com or me at DrJohnTelfordEdD@aol.com, or call DPS Board member LaMar Lemmons at (313) 521-7879, longtime schools activist Helen Moore at (313) 934-7721, or me at (313) 460-8272. Many folks may recall that I myself 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 dis-empower the elected Board when the Republican legislature unconstitutionally enacted thedisenfranchising Public Act 436, the replacement law for PA 4, which was the emergency management law that the voters of Michigan had rejected in 2012).  Over the years, the good elected Board has put in nearly as many hoursfor this cause as I have, and Helen Moore has put in still more.  Attorney Bleakley has now also spent hundreds of pro bono hours to prepare the lawsuit in this sacred cause.

I have absolute faith in Tom Bleakley’s ability to win this case.  Over the years, he won millions of dollars in similar tort lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry. The DPS situation is 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 plummeting student test scores and millions of dollars of indebtedness upon our venerable 174-year-old school district.  At the time of the state takeover in 1999, DPS enjoyed a surplus of more than $100 million, with student test scores  that in 1999 were at the state midpoint and rising.  Now during the state takeover years, the DPS scores have become the worst in America, with only the scores of the Governor’s “Educational Achievement” Authority (EAA) that compose the fifteen schools he commandeered from DPS being worse.

It is high time now for all DPS employees or retirees and any committed others to step up to the plate and contribute funds for this crucial endeavor and help organize a fund-raising committee to arrange some cabaret fundraising evenings, a Channel 33 Telethon, a celebrity basketball game, and other relevant activities to raise money for the lawsuit.  Several DPS and EAA parents are plaintiffs in this case, along with their children, and with me, and with our democratically elected Detroit school board–with the awarded damages to go entirely to the children when we win.

It is my hope that some of the Michigan Chronicle readership will help form the nucleus of this essential fundraising effort, along with the Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM), Helen Moore’s PTA group, her Keep-The-Vote-No-Takeover organization, and the DPS Board ‘members-in-exile.’  I hope that all of you who read this column will pool resources, contribute time to be part of the organizing of fundraising, speak out in support of it in the churches and the union halls, and recruit others to do likewise.  If anyone out there has any contact with the Detroit Pistons or the Detroit Lions–or any past or present NFL or NBA star who might be willing to help, that would be good, too.

Make no mistake: attorney Tom Bleakley and this federal tort lawsuit 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, whose education has now been callously damaged in DPS for many years as a result of the state takeover and emergency management.

John Telford remains the ‘superintendent-in-exile’ of DPS

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