Twelve current and former students and one teacher from Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) have filed suit against Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy (BKBA) and its Superintendent Blair Evans — the charter operator of CFA, Detroit Public Schools (DPS), DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency (Wayne RESA) and Wayne RESA Superintendant Christopher Wigant for discriminating against Detroit’s pregnant and parenting young women students by failing to provide appropriate and equal educational classes, no Due Process Rights and retaliating against teachers when they tried to defend the rights of the students.
“I believe as a student of Catherine Ferguson Academy and as a student from any place, that all students should have a right to an equal education and I am a student who feels as if I am not receiving one,” said Darshea White a CFA student who aspires to be a pharmacist, “For CFA I demand to have classes where teachers can teach before we have to do the work assigned to us and I do not want to sit in one class all day.”
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Monica Smith said, “I am honored to be fighting side by side and the legal representative for of these courageous students and teachers. These students have fought tooth and nail for the dignity and equality for the people of Detroit, for public education, against racist attacks and for the rights of women, including pregnant and parenting teens. The plaintiff and BAMN member students, teacher are defending the right of young mothers to an equal, quality education under Title IX, the 14th Amendment, by all other legal means and we will fight, march, rally and be heard until we win!”
For over two decades, prior to the 2012-2013 school year, CFA offered a traditional, comprehensive high school curriculum, with a full array of course offerings that met state and federal academic course requirements. CFA had been a place of hope for pregnant and parenting female students within Detroit Public Schools (DPS). CFA had a graduation rate of 90 percent, and all graduates were accepted to community colleges or universities and supported with financial aid packages through the assistance of CFA counseling staff.
In the spring of 2011, Robert Bobb, then- Emergency Financial Manager of DPS falsely claimed the District could no longer financially support the program, despite the fact that most of the operating funds came from Title 31(A), federal funds, and Michigan’s Dept of Human Services.
CFA students, with the support of the civil rights group By Any Means Necessary and other community groups, organized a campaign against the closure of CFA that gained national attention. That struggle ended with CFA being transferred to the charter school operator Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy (BKBA) with the understanding that BKBA would “support the continuation of the existing CFA Program by continuing the same structure of core academics.”
Beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year, BKBA scrapped the previous model of education that had been successful for decades and replaced it with the so-called “Big Picture” model.
Under this model teachers are banned from teaching classes, and are not allowed to teach the requirements of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.
Students are expected to research their own projects, without little direction or help, and if their work is incorrect, they are told at the end of the semester that they have failed, receiving no credit through no fault of their own. There are no certified Health, PE, foreign language, or computer teachers currently at CFA, so students are unable to acquire the credits needed to graduate. The one certified math teacher at CFA is being barred from teaching math and the two certified math teachers were fired though four math credits are required for graduation.
BKBA eliminated school guidance and college placement counseling, irreparably harming the students’ opportunity to apply and be accepted into universities and community colleges.
As a result, one hundred students, out of the approximately two hundred students who were enrolled at CFA at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year have been driven away from CFA since September 2012.
“We are going to continue to fight for our rights as teen mothers to have equal educational opportunities,” said Arkela Beatty, who left CFA this year after learning next to nothing for three quarters. We refuse to be consigned to a life without hope.”