"I feel like I'm being cheated."
That's what high school senior and plaintiff Jammarria Hall told reporters in 2016 after he and students from Detroit public schools filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan, alleging they were not adequately taught how to read and write. Although he learned to read because of support at home, many of his classmates didn't have the same opportunity. "We don't even have books for them to practice reading," he said.
Unfortunately, last week a federal judge threw out the students' class-action lawsuit.
In his ruling, Judge Stephen Murphy III wrote, “When a child who could be taught to read goes untaught, the child suffers a lasting injury – and so does society." Yet he still concluded that access to literacy is not a constitutional right.
Only five percent of fourth graders in Detroit’s public schools are proficient in reading. The national rate for fourth graders is 35 percent. Neither of those statistics is acceptable.
A child who can’t read by fourth grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school and will likely trail behind their peers in later school years. The ability to read is crucial to a child’s success in school and their future life.
No child should be deprived of the instruction and resources needed to learn how to read. When we don’t teach kids the necessary literacy skills, we are failing them.