Judge: New Mexico Must Provide Devices, Internet to Students

The decision comes more than four months after plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a motion claiming the state has failed to provide children with the necessary tools to study remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

new-mexico-capitol
The New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe.
David Kidd/Governing
(TNS) — A judge on Friday ordered New Mexico to provide computers and high-speed internet to at-risk students for remote learning.

The decision comes more than four months after plaintiffs in the landmark Yazzie/ Martinez lawsuit filed a motion claiming the state has failed to provide those children with the necessary tools to study remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his ruling, First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson said state officials "must comply with their duty to provide an adequate education and may not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitution."

"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," Wilson continued.

Preston Sanchez, an attorney representing the Yazzie plaintiffs, said in a news release the state's failure to address the technology gap was "catastrophic for far too many New Mexican families."

"Thousands of students are being denied their constitutionally required education sufficient to become college and career ready," Sanchez said. "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."

Wilson ruled teachers of at-risk students also must be given the proper digital devices and internet access to ensure the state is fulfilling its duty of providing all students an adequate education.

He also ruled the state must provide school districts with funding for sufficient, qualified information technology staff to help maintain digital devices, cellular hot spots and community Wi-Fi locations, along with other remote learning needs.

Lawyers in the Yazzie/ Martinez case successfully sued New Mexico for failing to sufficiently fund public schools, arguing that the state deprived English-language learners, Native Americans, low-income and special education students their constitutional right to an education.