MI AG Nessel Praises Sixth Circuit Opinion Confirming Literacy as a Basic Right 

Contact: Ryan Jarvi 517-335-7666
Agency: Attorney General

April 23, 2020

LANSING – While many assistant attorneys general were working around the clock to defend various Michigan state officials in a ground-breaking case known as  Gary B, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel attempted to weigh in last summer on the other side by filing an amicus brief urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to conclude that the Constitution guarantees a fundamental right to a minimally adequate education

In her amicus brief, Nessel argued that “the absence of a minimally adequate public education jeopardizes the very foundation on which our American democracy rests.” 

The Court shut her down, refusing to accept her amicus submission on behalf of the Plaintiffs because it misunderstood the Department of Attorney General’s conflict-wall process and the fact that AG Nessel’s amicus supporting the Plaintiffs played a separate role in the case from that of the attorneys in her office who represented the Defendant state officials.  

At the core of the case was whether or not a state and its public education departments at all levels are required to elements of a basic minimal education that would provide students of foundational literacy.  

Deeply disappointed to not have a role in the case, AG Nessel anxiously watched from the sidelines, knowing that the elements of the case would ultimately determine the judges’ decision: 1) lack of qualified teachers; 2) classrooms that fail to satisfy minimal state health and safety standards; and 3) lack of books and materials suitable for students. 

Nessel praised the decision released today by the Sixth Circuit, which agreed with the arguments she advanced in her submission and supports a student’s right to fundamental literacy. 

“I am overjoyed with the Court’s decision recognizing that the Constitution guarantees a right to a basic minimum education,” Nessel said. “This recognition is the only way to guarantee that students who are required to attend school will actually have a teacher, adequate educational materials, and a physical environment that does not subject them to filth, unsafe drinking water, and physical danger.  Education is a gateway to exercising other fundamental rights such as free speech and the right to citizenship, it is essential in order to function in today’s complex society, and it is a necessary vehicle empower individuals to rise above circumstances that have been foisted on them through no fault of their own.  Every child is entitled to the opportunity to participate fully in American life.” 

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