Court ruling orders NM to provide at-risk students with internet

Education

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A court ruling orders the state to provide at-risk students with the technology they need, especially with remote learning during the pandemic. Santa Fe District Court Judge Matthew Wilson ruled Friday in the Yazzie-Martinez education case.

“Lack of access has been catastrophic for far too many New Mexican families because of the state’s failure to address the technology gaps, especially for Native students and students living in rural areas,” said Preston Sanchez, in a news release, an attorney representing the Yazzie plaintiffs who argued the plaintiffs’ motion in court Friday. “Thousands of students are being denied their constitutionally required education sufficient to become college and career ready. Many are getting no education at all. The state has to be accountable to New Mexico’s students and families and make access to their education a priority.”

According to the same news release from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the court ordered the state to provide the following:

  • Determine which at-risk students and their teachers do not have a dedicated digital device and immediately provide one or ensure that one is provided to each of these students and their teachers. 
  • Determine which at-risk students do not have access to high-speed internet that will allow them to work from home and immediately provide them with access to a high-speed service and when necessary, transportation to access it.
  • Provide school districts with funding for sufficient qualified IT staff to support and maintain digital devices, cellular hotspots, and community Wi-Fi locations, and other remote learning needs.

The news release states, in 2018, in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit, the court ordered the state to provide sufficient education to all public school students, and the state was required to direct resources to fix the failures in its education system because the court recognized students—especially Native students, English language learners, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities—would be irreparably harmed if they did not act in a timely matter.

“This is a great day for New Mexico’s children,” said Melissa Candelaria in the news release, a senior attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which represents the Yazzie plaintiffs. “The judge’s ruling comes as a huge relief to so many families. Our children deserve a gold standard education but they cannot even participate in school without access to technology. Many students are not back at school and internet services are unavailable, especially in rural districts and districts serving predominantly Native American students. Even when students come back into the physical classroom, technology will continue to be a necessity.” 

The news release says that an estimated 23% of the New Mexico population lacks broadband internet service and an estimated 80% of Native Americans living on tribal lands in the state do not have internet services.       

“There are far too many students in New Mexico who have not had access to education for an entire year,” said Alisa Diehl in the same news release, a senior attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “It is simply unacceptable that the state allow them to continue to fall even further behind. The state needs to take action immediately to make sure New Mexico’s students get the education they need and deserve.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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