By Dr. John Telford

Hallelujah!  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’s educationally deprived schoolchildren in federal court, he didn’t think such a noble knight-errant could possibly exist, but I’ve proved him wrong.  I found this altruistic lawyer 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 this historic lawsuit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, recent DPS emergency managers, and other allegedly culpable individuals.  Now this case has gone viral.  News outlets across the nation and throughout the world have seized upon it, making it America’s number-one education story.  However, even though Attorney Tom Bleakley is donating his services to plead this case, he naturally can’t be expected to donate his money for it as well.  This lawsuit 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.

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 enacted the unconstitutional Public Act 436, the replacement law for PA 4, which was the emergency management law that the voters of Michigan had rejected in November of 2012).  Over the years, the good elected Board has put in nearly as many hours for 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 of the past sixteen years 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, the DPS scores have become the worst in America, with only the scores of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) that compose the fifteen schools the governor stole 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.  We have several DPS and EAA parents who are plaintiffs, along with their children, and with me, and with our democratically elected Detroit school board.  

It is my hope that some of the D-REM Website readership will help form the nucleus of this essential fundraising effort, along with the Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership, 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.

John Telford remains the DPS ‘superintendent-in-exile’  and sits at the table with the DPS Board at its meetings every second Thursday at 5:30 at Frederick Douglass High School on west Warren.  He is a Detroit author and poet whose most recent book is a biography of legendary Miller and Pershing coach Will Robinson, available at Amazon Books (type in Dr. John Telford).   Read his  monthly ‘Telford Telescope’ column in the ‘Detroit Native Sun’ and listen to the ‘John Telford Show’ on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 on WCHB NewsTalk1200 to hear him discuss this lawsuit and the current and ongoing plight of the beleaguered Detroit schools.