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Detroit's School Fighter

Since arriving as Detroit Public Schools' chief earlier this year, Robert C. Bobb has aggressively tackled corruption. That was on full display this morning in a downtown Detroit courtroom. Bobb made an unusual appearance at the sentencing hearing for Arsenio White, a 19-year-old 10th-grade dropout who'd been caught breaking into a school with two friends – apparently to steal computers.

That's no small matter in Detroit, where the school system – and the city itself – is on the brink of financial collapse. Bobb told the packed courtroom that already this year, nearly 500 school computers had been stolen, costing his system at least $600,000. “That should have been used to invest in our students,” he said, adding, “This young man has the opportunity to turn his life around.” The judge, then, essentially followed Bobb's suggestion: White was sentenced to three years of probation, partially served in a boot camp. Then, White must enroll in a Detroit public school program to earn his high school diploma. After his sentencing, White stood up and apologized to the court, the school system, and his parents, who were in the room.

Television cameras followed Bobb outside the courtroom. He said he'd attend other criminal hearings, if needed, to make clear that “the Detroit public schools isn't an electronics store.” Then, a local reporter asked Bobb about Fox News' Shephard Smith, who last night told his viewers: “If my kid were in Detroit I'd try to burn the place down,” an apparent reference to last week's news that Detroit public school students performed abysmally on a national test. In response to Smith, Bobb said: “To hell with him. Who the hell does he think he is? There's nothing wrong with these kids' minds. Maybe something's wrong with the adults.”

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