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Group asks federal court to block closing of Michigan schools for in-person learning

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The Brain Injury Rights (BIR) group has filed a motion to block Michigan schools from closing for in-person leaning, claiming the closures violate the civil rights of students who require special education in schools.

The temporary restraining order seeks to block Michigan schools from closing buildings or switching to all-virtual learning. The motion comes after Detroit area public schools and Ann Arbor public schools switched to virtual learning earlier this week due to COVID-19 concerns.

Detroit and Ann Arbor schools are scheduled to return to in-person learning on January 14 in order to allow some time for the spread of COVID-19 to decrease.

BIR attorney Patrick Donohue said in a press release this week, “It is inexcusable for school districts to continue to violate the rights of special education students by closing schools.” The group already has a pending lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Education for its school shutdown in 2020.

School officials say they see little other option than to close the schools temporarily. “We just have to work through this difficult surge right now,” superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said. He added that opening schools while the city has a 40% infection rate is an “operational nightmare” for the district.

Vitti also cites the city’s low vaccination rates as a driving factor in the decision to close schools. “We’re below 50%, where other large urban school districts or cities, like Baltimore, Cleveland, DC, Oakland, are, you know, 70%, 80%,” Vitti said.

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