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Crumbling Buildings, Unsafe Environment Severely Affects Black Students in Detroit Public Schools


As the city of Detroit tries to come back from the brink of bankruptcy, its school system has yet to see a real recovery. According to Detroit Public Schools fourth-grade educator Pam Namyslowski, who published a scathing letter in the Huffington Post, the schools’ crumbling infrastructure hinders the students’ education and makes the classroom and learning experience unsafe.

Students who travel to and from school pass numerous abandoned, dangerous buildings and have been robbed, assaulted and raped. Teachers have been victims of violent crimes and have had their vehicles and personal property damaged and/or stolen, sometimes repeatedly. They suffer verbal abuse and some have been assaulted by angry students or parents.

Many schools have numerous plumbing problems in the lavatories, drinking fountains and sinks. Many outdated school buildings are crumbling — roofs, floors, windows, doors and locks that are broken or in desperate need of repair. Far too many classrooms are overcrowded, creating conditions that are not even safe, let alone conducive to learning.

According to the 2014 Census estimate, Detroit’s population is 680, 250, and 82. 7 percent of those are Black residents. The students Namyslowski speaks of are more than likely Black students.

For the last seven years, Detroit Public Schools have been controlled by the state. Gov. Rick Snyder, who is infamously connected to the Flint water crisis, is essentially the overseer of the school system during this tough financial crisis. The most recent emergency manager, Darnell Earley, does the governor’s bidding and tried to save the failing system by launching initiatives that were proven ineffective. US News Uncut reported that Earley also served as emergency manager of the Flint water crisis.

Here are some of the awful conditions Namyslowski mentions:




Teachers have quit, and others went on strike last week to bring attention to the extreme conditions in their classrooms.

There have been reports of mold, holes in the roofs, bumps underneath the floors, holes in the walls, leaking from the floors above, and mushroom growth within classrooms. Rats and roaches ran through the halls of Moses Field School, and pieces of ceiling have fallen on the heads of students at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, CNN reports.

During a press conference last week, Earley denounced the teachers’ protests, saying he disagrees with “the negative impact this is having on our students and our families because of the way it is being orchestrated. … Using students as pawns … in my opinion, is not only unacceptable, it is also very unethical.”

The schools’ various damages have been documented through video and photographs which proves that the teachers’ grievances are legitimate. These damages have reflected the extreme debt of the school system.

Currently, Gov. Snyder is lobbying legislators to approve a $715 million package to pay off the debt and restructure education in Detroit, according to Detroit News.

As tragic as all this is, the saddest part is that since the state took over, national surveys show math and reading scores in Detroit have fallen to the lowest ranking among the nation’s largest cities, according to CNN. Students are lagging behind amidst a climatic teacher-school system showdown.

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