A New Mexico judge ordered the state to provide computers and high-speed internet access to “at-risk” students who lacked the resources needed to access remote learning both during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, issued by First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson, was part of the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico Decision case. The case pre-dates the pandemic and was initially more broadly focused on the state needing to provide a “sufficient education to all public school students.”

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In the final ruling issued in 2018, the court said that access to technology, including computers and related infrastructure, is essential to a sufficient education. The ongoing court case is now focused on whether the state is providing access to technology for at-risk students quickly enough.

“The court ruled that defendants must comply with their duty to provide an adequate education and may not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitution,” Judge Wilson said. “Children who are lacking access to internet and technology for remote learning are not getting much of an education, if at all, let alone one that is sufficient to make them college and career ready.”

In a press release, the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty explained that the court ordered the state to immediately:

  • 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.

“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 an attorney representing the Yazzie plaintiffs. “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.”

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs allege the lack of adequate education resources disproportionately impacts Native students, English language learners, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs