In October 2016, we filed a major class action lawsuit against the State of Michigan and local school districts over the systemic failure to provide an adequate education for children with disabilities in Flint.
In the wake of the Flint water crisis, in which the population of an entire city (including approximately 30,000 children) was exposed to lead, our investigation revealed that the public school system lacks the resources, support and expertise needed to properly screen children for disabilities, to address the educational needs of children who have or are at risk of developing disabilities, and to ensure that students with disabilities are not unfairly disciplined, restrained, or excluded from public education.
The lawsuit seeks broad systemic reform to make sure that the children in Flint’s public schools are not left behind as the city struggles to recover from lead poisoning.
In September 2017 Judge Arthur Tarnow denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss. We then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to require the state to provide comprehensive neuropsychological screening for all children who had been exposed to lead.
In April 2018 the state agreed to settle that part of the case by funding a first-of-its-kind initiative that will provide every child in Flint with access to an independently-run, state-of-the-art screening program designed to detect disabilities associated with lead exposure. The case remains pending on two additional claims: the need to provide adequate special education services to children who are identified as having a disability, and reform of the system by which children are unfairly disciplined for behavior caused by their disabilities.
(D.R. v. Michigan Department of Education; ACLU Attorneys Kristin Totten and Dan Korobkin; Greg Little, Jessica Levin, and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center; Lindsay Heck and Greg Starner of White & Case.)